Yesterday, District Court Judge Jason Marks rejected all NorthWestern Energy and Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s arguments and declared Montana’s “pre-approval” statute unconstitutional.
In the grand scheme of things, with greenhouse gas emissions soaring and a hot-house climate beginning to take hold in Montana, this is a small victory. But, it’s significant. NorthWestern won’t be able to use “pre-approval” to shortcut regulation and public participation, something it’s used since 2007 to slam-dunk a half-billion dollars of extra ratepayer charges.
Judge Marks also rejected the provision in the law that excludes the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) from revoking or changing the terms of a “pre-approval.” 350 Montana wonders if it’s time the PSC went back to recover some of the overcharges NorthWestern tacked on.
Attorneys Monica Tranel and Tom Tosdal brought our case before the court and put in countless hours fighting off NorthWestern and the State of Montana’s attempts to dismiss and demean the case. We thank them!
Finally, at a court hearing on March 23, the opposing lawyers proposed judicial activism as the solution. They tried to get Judge Marks to impose new language on the statute, something the Judge rejected as “the role of the Legislature.” Instead, he ruled the entire statute “a special act” advantaging only NorthWestern, which he declared unconstitutional.
Thanks again to our fine lawyers, to three members who became plaintiffs, Jerome Walker and Abby and Eric Huseth, and all those who attended the hearing and supported our case.
Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana