In a recent opinion, the Gazette asked several questions about an energy bill amendment I am considering regarding electrical transmission in our nation. Many of their questions are good questions that need to be discussed. Any time you see legislation that appears to sidestep states' rights it should raise a red flag or two. As the Gazette correctly noted, the legislation referred to by Gov. Martz at the Western Governor's Association meetings just over a week ago is a work in progress and by no means final. Let me address the concerns.
The recent power outage in the Northeastern United States was a wake-up call. When the lights go out, and bad weather isn't causing it, one has to ask if our present system works as it should. I say it does not. We must recognize the Western power grid is also fragile, as blackouts in California and the Northwest have shown us in recent years.
As it stands now, if Montana wanted to sell surplus power to the folks in Seattle by expanding existing transmission lines, the states of Idaho and Washington, and in some cases the individual counties the lines would pass through would have the ability to kill the whole deal. We're going to need more transmission, and it would be short-sighted to let "not in my backyard" attitudes sink projects that will increase reliability of the entire system.
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States would have voice My plan would create "corridors of national interest" that could build upon existing transmission lines and create a structural integrity within the Western power grid that we don't have right now. States along these corridors would and should have a voice in where those corridors would be located.
Over the last decade and longer, we have built almost no new transmission infrastructure. During that time our power consumption has increased significantly and our current system is at or past capacity. As our economy continues to improve and power needs increase, our current reliance on outdated grids leave us exposed to questionable reliability of the system.
We must develop our vast clean-coal resources and harness the abundant wind potential here in Montana. Development of these resources will put millions of dollars paid in royalties and taxes in our state coffers, benefiting our schools and other public needs. Development will bring good-paying jobs and have a positive impact on the Montana economy.
Clear rules needed I have no interest in sidestepping states' rights. I feel it is imperative for the states to be involved in the decision making process, and my legislation would break the potential logjams down the river. In order for us as a nation to improve our transmission capabilities we need certainty, and right now we have none. We need clear rules and a level playing field to encourage investment in our national energy supply, and to accomplish that goal we need a comprehensive energy bill.
The problem is not eminent domain. The problem is we can't get the power where it is needed. My proposal will change that. We need diverse sources of energy to take our nation in to the future and we need the ability to develop those sources efficiently and safely. I feel we are on track to a sensible solution to this problem, and I ask that we all work together to solve it.