The Majority Leader of the Montana House of Representatives is working to help a bill pass the legislature that he says will provide a stable source of energy for Montana into the future.

Republican Brad Tschida said Senate Bill 331 would bring together North Western Energy and the Colstrip coal fired power plant.

“North Western Energy is trying to work out an arrangement with the Colstrip ownership that has the potential to benefit Montana customers,” said Tschida. “There are two big issues right now. First, North Western Energy does not have the capacity it needs during peak times. For example, in February when it was bitter cold, they had to go out and buy power at a peak time when it cost the rate payers $13.5 million. If they had access to 150 megawatts of power it would have save money for the ratepayers, so having the extra capacity would mean lower prices in the winter and the summer.”

Tschida said there is a second factor in this equation.

“In order to be able to move the power west, or to move power back from the west back into Montana, North Western Energy needs control of the 500 kilowatt transmission lines, and the only way that can happen is through acquisition of more than 50 percent of Colstrip to have access to those power lines. If they are unable to do that then we won’t be able to move the power around Montana or bring it in from the east and west. So, what North Western Energy is trying to do is secure the power lines by securing a portion of the power from Colstrip to be able to meet Montana’s energy demands.”

Tschida said there are forces that oppose this plan that include the Sierra Club, that he said are painting the bill as being bad for Montana.

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