Is this the bill that will help save Colstrip, the coal mine, and the coal-fired power plant in Southeast Montana? Or, will Colstrip shut down anyway, and will ratepayers be left holding the bag?

We caught up recently with State Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls), the lead sponsor of SB 379- "the Colstrip bill," which also has the backing of Colstrip's own State Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip).

According to Mike Dennison with the Montana Television Network, the bill "guarantees NorthWestern Energy certain cost recovery, from its customers, if it acquires more power from the Colstrip coal-fired plants."

All but one of the Republican state senators voted in support of the bill. The lone vote in opposition- State Sen. Brad Molnar (R-Laurel).

We spoke with both Molnar and Fitzpatrick recently on the radio.

Fitzpatrick says this bill is about keeping Colstrip up and running, and keeping the lights on in Montana:

FITZPATRICK: I think we just saw a couple weeks ago down in Texas, they went through a cold snap, they lost power with their windmills, and they didn't have enough backup power. And really, that's what the bill is about. It's ensuring that our utilities will have enough what's called dispatchable power, that's power that you can turn on when you need it when the renewables aren't working. So really, at the end of the day, this is Bill, it's just about ensuring that Northwestern energy can get that dispatchable power that it needs. So the lights stay on when we need them.

Molnar says while the bill will allow Northwestern Energy to gain a larger chunk of ownership of the power plant, out of state interests will still own the power to transmit the energy over the power lines:

MOLNAR: There's no transmission. So you have a white elephant, you have a plant sitting there, with no way to get electricity out of the plant. No transmission. So I went to several the lobbyists for the other owners, because the owners agreement determines who can acquire transmission. And I was told flatly, there is no intention whatsoever to sell transmission.


Listen to the full audio on our podcast below:

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