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NWE Draft Procurement—Why Was This Canceled?

November 20, 2018

Cancelled/Postponed by NorthWestern.  NWE promised another public meeting at last spring’s planning meeting in Butte. What Happened?

No bus trip is currently planned.


After next Tuesday, November 6 (Be sure to cast your incredibly important vote), mark your calendar for the next big event, which occurs in Billings on November 20, the planned unveiling of NorthWestern Energy’s draft procurement plan. All expectations are that the company will again propose the construction of a very expensive network of natural-gas-fired “peaker” plants.

The company will then take its plan before a December 15 deadline to Montana’s Public Service Commission (PSC) for approval. If approved, it will become the roadmap to Montana’s post-Colstrip energy system.

NorthWestern is unveiling its plan in Billings because it doesn’t want to make it easy for you to participate. As of today, the company has not yet announced the time or location of the meeting. We have written several letters to Bob Rowe, the company’s CEO, requesting either a change of venue or a second meeting for ratepayers in Western Montana. But I wouldn’t bet your house payment on any changes.

So . . . we’d love for you to join us for a long day’s bus ride to testify at the November 20 Billings meeting. Mark your calendars. We’re working with the Montana Sierra Club to make transportation available. Stay tuned for details and a sign-up list.

Once thought to be a “bridge fuel” between coal and renewable energy, recent research makes clear this is more public relations than truth. Natural gas is a innocent-sounding euphemism for methane, which is far more potent, some 80 times more potent, as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). Significant quantities of methane leak throughout the drilling, transportation, and burning process. In fact, one activist, after reading a new NASA report, concluded, “The sharp increase in methane emissions correlates closely with the U.S. fracking boom. Leaking and venting of unburned gas—which is mostly methane—makes natural gas even worse for the climate than coal.”

An added liability is that prices for natural gas fluctuate wildly and will become more volatile if our state or the feds impose a tax on greenhouse gas pollution. Montana ratepayers would be on the hook for those unanticipated costs.

So why does NorthWestern Energy continue to push these plants rather than renewable energy and conservation since the vast majority of Montanans favors renewable energy? I’m not sure we have an answer.

Building a new generation of fossil fuel generators in Montana makes no sense in light of last month’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that predicts drought in some places, high precipitation events in others, plus sea level rise, instability at the North and South Pole, animal and plant extinctions, ocean acidification, and other calamities. Other studies suggest the changes are coming faster than we realized. As the IPCC suggests, we need a “rapid and far reaching transition” to carbon-free energy. That means we must do everything we can to defeat these proposed gas plants in Montana.

We hope you can join us on November 20.


November 20, 2018