Buckle Up

Lots of happenings this week, not surprisingly. If you haven’t left for the remotest atoll yet, here are some possibilites. I would also request that you send an email to all five Public Service Commissioners (PSC) about the importance of renewable energy, but I’ll leave the details about your email to the end.

350 Montana’s ACTION COMMITTEE meets this Tuesday, January 17, at 5:30 at the Imagine Nation Brewery on West Broadway. This is the committee that helps set direction for the group. This week’s agenda includes two things: 1. getting ready for a trip to Helena on January 18 to the PSC’s meeting where commissioners are talking about cutting the price for commercial solar developments in Montana and 2. getting ready for the “Making Renewable Energy Work for Montana” panel at the University Theater on February 8 at 7 p.m.. There will also be updates on “valve turner” Leonard Higgins’ trial in Fort Benton and the huge national day of action, “the People’s Climate Mobilization,” on April 29.

350 MONTANA’S ANNUAL MEETING takes place after the Action Committee. This is where members pass our strategic plan for 2017 and vote for the officers of the leadershp team. We imagine this meeting will start at 6:30 at Imagine Nation Brewing this Tuesday.

One of our members wanted to make sure everyone knew about the WOMEN’S MARCH ON MONTANA next Saturday, January 21, in Helena. People are lining up to march on 8th Avenue between Roberts and Sanders at 11:30 a.m. and start marching promptly at noon. In coordination with a similar march in Washington D.C., the idea is “to send a unified message to the new administration on its first day in office.” You can find more information here:


350 Montana has rented a 15-pasenger van to go to the PSC MEETING in Helena this Wednesday, January 18. We’re leaving early, time and place to be announced later. What’s happening is critically important for making solar energy commercially viable in Montana. The Commission sets the price NorthWestern Energy, our utility, charges for small-scale solar developments. Set the right price and there will be an explosion of these very important carbon-free electricity generating projects. A lobbyist for NorthWestern Energy has called such solar arrays “a cancer on the system.” The Montana Environmental Information Center and Earthjustice are bringing in an expert to testify and, during the public comment period, 350 Montana will present over a thousand petitions we’ve collected from Montanans who want to encourage solar energy development. Please email yswolfhowl@gmail.com is you’re interested in participating. Right now, there’s still room in the van.

If you can’t make the trip but still want to help encourage solar energy, here’s what you do. Below is a list of the PSC commissioners are their email addresses:

Tony O’Donnell todonnell@mt.gov, Brad Johnson bjohnson@mt.gov, Travis Kavulla tkavulla@mt.gov, Roger Koopman rkoopman@mt.gov, and Bob Lake blake@mt.gov

Please send each of them an email similar to the one I’ve adapted that was written by our leadership team’s John Woodland. I’ve attached it at the end of this email. As always, thanks for your climate activism.

Jeff Smith, Chair, 350 Montana



Dear _________,

NW Energy is seeking your approval to start building fossil fuel (natural gas) turbines proposed in their 2015 plan. This is not the right direction for Montana. Since that plan was written, we have learned a great deal more about the negative climate impacts of natural gas and we have seen those impacts in extreme events such as the Yellowstone River fish kill.

Natural gas is little better than coal in its impacts on our climate as a result of methane leaks in production and transportation. Any investment in fossil fuels takes that investment away from where we need to go, to carbon-free renewable energy.  In addition, because the climate crisis is accelerating, it is very likely these generators will need to be abandoned in favor of clean energy well ahead of the anticipated payback period.

We have also seen significant reductions in costs associated with renewable sources. The downside to renewable is also quickly changing, with new and innovative energy storage proposals moving forward in Montana to meet peak load concerns. Please make sure renewables are treated fairly in the evaluation process. Please encourage NorthWestern Energy to do a full reevaluation of renewable energy in its new plan due this year.
Montanans see the need for a shift in our energy mix. According to a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by University of Montana and Stanford University, a majority of Montanans consider climate change an “extreme” or “serious” concern. Only 17 percent said contesting the EPA’s clean power plan was the right way to go. The PSC needs to represent all Montanans and get moving to encourage more renewable energy.
Thank you.
Your Name and Address