Library from Montana
Last year, NorthWestern Energy launched an open-season process to identify potential buyers of energy sent along MSTI. It's had to extend the deadline due to a lack of interest. "There is confusion in the Western market," says Mike Cashell, NorthWestern's vice president of transmission. ...We're still confident and hopeful that the market can absorb generation from Montana."
These comments by Montana Public Service Commissioner, John Vincent, appeared following an article on the MSTI transmission line proposed in Montana to deliver wind to the California market.
The utility has asked the PSC to approve the purchase and allow NorthWestern to charge electric ratepayers for its development cost and the power it would produce, starting in 2012. ...The PSC will examine why the company chose Spion Kop [wind farm] and whether it is the best deal for consumers.
Wind developers are federally subsidized with tax credits and they are asking the BPA to pay for those credits temporarily lost during curtailment. This would amount to customers of public utilities paying private investors to stop producing electricity when it isn’t needed. BPA already gives these producers free hydropower to compensate for power deliveries they give up when production is curbed.
Wind developers in Montana are counting on the trans-border transmission line to build their projects, which would connect the electricity grids of the two countries at Great Falls and Lethbridge. The line's construction has been slowed by disputes with landowners and construction contractors.
The information, which includes price and cost of the project, wind data, financial models, legal analyses and costs of capital, will be submitted to the PSC to help it determine whether NorthWestern chose the best project for consumers and the public interest.
Hertha Lund, a Bozeman attorney, said she thinks the question of the law's constitutionality and how it affects condemnation of the property should both be decided by Judge McKinnon. "The fact that the Supreme Court remanded (the case) back to the District Court is a victory for Salois and the other landowners."
The divisive issue of "eminent domain" stormed back to prominence at the Legislature Tuesday, as the state Senate revived and then endorsed a once-dead bill that gives a Canadian company the power to condemn property along its route for a power line in north-central Montana.
"Such a delegation (of power) must be express or necessarily implied - not cobbled together," she wrote. "Here, where MATL is unable to find an express delegation of power ... the court must conclude that this extraordinary power has not been delegated.
Supporters of the bill are doubtful that there are enough votes in the 50-member Senate to blast the bill onto the floor, meaning the bill is probably dead unless supporters are able to muster enough votes to force a floor debate.
A Senate panel this morning killed a high-profile bill designed to override a court decision on land condemnation that has stalled construction of a major power line for wind energy in northern Montana. ...The panel then voted to table the measure, likely killing it for the session.
Senate Republicans are floating a new proposal to break the legislative logjam over landowner rights vs. property condemnation powers of transmission line developers - but so far they're not finding any takers.
"In the end, the governor will decide if he wants this bill or not. ... It's not going to be a bargaining chip. This bill is going to live or die on its own."
Commissioners called a meeting to discuss what other counties charge developers to cover impacts of the projects. One such impact that could occur is wear and tear on roads during construction. "Has anybody ever addressed the aesthetic impacts?" commission Chairman Bill Salina asked.
"This is just a sweetheart deal for a Canadian company, and allows them to condemn Montana farmland for their own use - and that's just absolutely wrong," said Larry Martin, a farmer from Conrad who owns land in path of MATL.
Vincent questions whether the California decision will leave investors and developers reluctant to invest in new transmission. "That puts a big question mark over whether it's worthy of the investment," he said. "Every article that I've read about it has essentially said in one way or the other that this is bad news for Washington, Oregon and Montana wind. It has got to almost change the paradigm."
Officials pushing the bills say that energy prices soar and consumers suffer when utilities are required to allocate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. Clean energy groups counter that lowering the bar on state renewable energy policies would stifle new investment and kill jobs.
The state House on Monday overwhelmingly approved a proposed two-year extension of the state's moratorium on wind developers' eminent domain powers. House members also passed on second reading House Bill 191, which would revamp the state's wind tax and distribution method.
The report, prepared by economists at the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, found that Montanans will likely pay $225 million more for power in 2015 because of the state's RPS, and it could cost them as much as $348 million more. Meanwhile there will be negligible environmental benefit, as it is unclear whether use of renewables such as wind and solar actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill is opposed by landowners in the path of the Montana Alberta Tie Line who argue that a private company from another country shouldn't have the authority to condemn land here. The bill states that public utilities and companies that receive permits under the Major Facility Siting Act, such as MATL, can take private land for public use.