Montana Public Radio

NorthWestern Energy

House Advances 'Save Colstrip' Bill

Apr 15, 2019
Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R) - Billings, is carrying Senate Bill 331 as it moves through the House. He said after an amendment restored oversight to the Public Service Commission, the bill became more palatable for lawmakers.
Shaylee Ragar / UM Legislative News Service

HELENA -- The Montana House of Representatives on Monday advanced legislation known as the “Save Colstrip” bill, which would incentivize NorthWestern Energy to buy more shares of Colstrip’s coal-fired power plant.

'Capitol Talk' is MTPR's weekly legislative analysis program.
Montana Public Radio

Bills to continue Medicaid expansion — and to buy more coal — have nothing in common, unless you want one, or both, to pass. That fight, and whether transparency is good or bad for legislating top our discussion tonight on Capitol Talk.

A party-line vote late in a Montana House committee Friday is advancing the controversial bill that gives NorthWestern Energy incentives to buy a larger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A party-line vote late in a Montana House committee Friday is advancing the controversial bill that gives NorthWestern Energy incentives to buy a larger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.

But the so-called Montana Energy Security Act is moving to the House floor for debate significantly changed.

Sen. Duane Ankney (R) - Colstrip.
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

The bill to reauthorize Medicaid expansion in Montana failed to pass today when the state Senate locked in a 25-25 tie.

Republican co-sponsors of the policy are withholding their support in a play for leverage over other political goals, including the passage of a controversial bill aimed at keeping the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip running.

(PD)

Meagher County Commissioners signed an emergency declaration this afternoon due to a power outage that began this morning. County residents, like those in the town of White Sulphur Springs, have been without power since around 8 a.m.

NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The controversial proposal for Montana to give NorthWestern Energy incentive to buy a bigger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip got its first hearing in the state House Monday.

Senate Bill 331 is seen by some as a deregulation bill to benefit of the state’s largest monopoly utility company. Others see it as a proposal to save Colstrip while providing reliable  power that will keep Montanans' heaters running even in the coldest of cold snaps.

Tonight on Capitol Talk: The state budget sails through the Legislature; Gov. Bullock says he's "skeptical" about the "save Colstrip" bill; a Colstrip senator launches a vitriolic video slamming press coverage of the Colstrip bill; Attorney General Tim Fox opposes ending Obamacare; and three more candidates enter the races for governor and U.S. House. 

Groups campaigning for the expansion of renewable energy sources rallied nearly a hundred supporters in front of NorthWestern Energy headquarters in Butte, Oct. 10, 2016.
Corin Cates-Carney

NorthWestern Energy is asking Montana lawmakers to back a bill that would allow them to bypass some oversight by state regulators. 

The so-called Montana Energy Security Act of 2019 passed out of the Senate late last week.

It's been a busy week at the Montana Legislature. Medicaid expansion and a bill to help NorthWestern Energy acquire more coal are still alive; A bill to fund preschool education is killed; And a bill to help find missing and murdered Native American women is passed, then killed, then revived. Learn more now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

NorthWestern Energy truck.
Sue Ginn / Montana Public Radio

A controversial bill to change the state’s regulation of NorthWestern Energy in a potential deal at Colstrip cleared a critical vote Wednesday in the Senate. 

The proposal encourages the state’s largest monopoly utility to increase its operating share of energy production at one of the coal-fired power plant's four units.

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