I can hardly believe that anyone elected to represent Montanans would craft legislation such as Senate Bill 278, recently introduced by Sen. Tom Richmond of Billings. His bill would subject thousands of Montanans and Montana businesses, schools and local governments to grave financial risks under the guise of saving Colstrip. The resulting increased electricity costs could make it impossible for many households to pay their NorthWestern bills, and could conceivably result in some businesses shutting down.
Senate Bill 278 gives NorthWestern Energy the green light to acquire a larger share of Colstrip ownership for $1, and then NorthWestern can do whatever it wants — upgrade Colstrip, continue running it, or close it down, all without any oversight from the Public Service Commission, which normally protects utility customers from utility overreach and poor decisions.
Whatever Northwestern Energy decides to do, Montana utility customers — generations of utility customers — will pay the costs in our monthly bills for the next 30 years! We, NorthWestern’s customers, could also end up paying additional hundreds of millions of dollars in clean up and mitigation costs at such time as Colstrip is decommissioned. We have no idea what costs will be, no way of knowing how high our future electricity bills might climb, no way to plan, and no say whatsoever.
NorthWestern Energy should be embarrassed by SB278 and refuse to be involved in this scheme. Our elected representatives in Helena need to put an end to this absurd piece of legislation.