Library from Montana
Farmers, ranchers and other rural property owners packed a hearing room Wednesday at the Capitol to oppose a bill that would grant eminent domain power to private transmission line developers.
Salois had asked Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. to move its line to avoid damaging historical Native American tepee rings on his mother's private property. MATL refused and chose condemnation. Having lost, MATL now expects the Legislature to bail it out. MATL claims it has a deal with Montana's legislators and the governor. As reported in the Lethbridge Herald, that deal will be done by March.
Members of the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4-0 Friday to grant a special-use permit to Chicago-based developer Invenergy to build a 16-turbine wind farm near Belt, which could grow to 10 times that size in future phases.
Officials are confident work will proceed on the Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. electricity transmission line - both north and south of the border - despite a Montana court decision limiting right of entry to private lands.
A district judge in Montana ruled Monday that a Canadian developer of a high-voltage power line has no authority to condemn private property for the project. The decision, filed Monday, is a victory for landowners trying to limit the impact of the Montana Alberta Tie Line. It also could carry ramifications for other developers proposing transmission projects to meet demand from wind developers asking for additional shipping capacity.
Questioning large-scale wind and transmission development often results in charges of being against both wind and jobs. This is unfortunate because it's often not true, discourages public involvement and inhibits the questioning of positions held by important public figures. And questions need to be asked. ...There are no guarantees that wind power will be "low cost" for Montana's rate payers.
Excessive rutting caused by vehicles, disturbance of a Native American archaeological site and placing poles too far from fence lines has occurred during construction of the Montana Alberta Tie Line, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Jefferson County is asking the state to hire a consultant on its behalf as it reviews a controversial power line project. ...The requests come as the DEQ works to develop a draft environmental impact statement for NorthWestern Energy's controversial Mountain States Transmission Intertie, or MSTI, power line.
I'm not condemning these projects because the information simply isn't available now to determine whether the greater good is to build them. But I do believe that to this point, they've done the absolute bare minimum to explain themselves to the community. Montana deserves better. And Montana can do better for itself.
So, receipt of the promised annual payment hinges on legislative actions of foreign elected representatives for whom an affected landowner cannot even vote. The provincial legislature might simply repeal or amend the Surface Rights Act, and MATL could say: Oh, sorry, no more annual payment; the Canadian law has changed.
Unfortunately, the energy business in 2010 is much more about generating, transmitting and selling more energy than it is about using the energy we already have more efficiently. This in a country that wastes fully 70 percent of the electricity it produces. ...We certainly do need more clean, renewable energy, but that clean energy needs to at least start replacing dirty energy, and that just isn't happening.
When environmentalists tout wind as a clean alternative to climate-changing fossil fuels, they are not talking about the Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI). In fact we feel Montanans are being misled by the "green" nature of the line and "in-state benefits.
According to Shapiro, when he first approached the Bureau of Land Management about the project, no red flags were apparent. ...But in written comments to FERC, representatives of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Elkhorn Working Group, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service all noted that the project probably isn't appropriate for the proposed site.
The plan calls for generating power that would be sent to the Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI) to fill in the line when wind power isn’t available. ...Tom Carlsen, a wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the state agency has "serious concerns regarding negative impacts to wildlife should this proposed project move beyond the feasibility study."
Imagine a utility that generates 100 percent of the electricity it sells by burning coal or natural gas. Impose the S. 3813 RES standard on that utility and, all of a sudden, only a maximum of 85 percent of its electricity can be generated by fossil fuels. In other words, the utility's use of fossil fuels has been capped - the result would be skyrocketing energy prices.
van't Hoff said 31 transmission lines cross the border dividing Canada and the United States, but MATL is the first in which users of a line - in this case wind developers - will pay for the transmission as opposed to utility ratepayers. Three wind-farm developers and the Western Area Power Administration have shipping space reserved.
Although Tonbridge already has begun construction on the stretch north of Cut Bank, Salois' son, Larry, and other landowners have argued that a foreign private corporation has no right to invoke eminent domain, a right that Salois' lawyer, Hertha Lund, said belongs to the state.
Travis Kavulla, the Republican opposing Democrat Don Ryan in northern Montana's open seat in PSC District 1, has a similar view. He says requiring utilities to buy a minimum amount of renewable power adds costs to power bills "without generating any real benefits."
The project came as a surprise to those who live here. There was no community involvement before the announcement and has been very little since. The majority of landowners in the two-mile area surrounding the project are opposed to it. The turbines could be installed as early as next summer.
As part of the utility's application, the DEQ and the federal Bureau of Land Management are conducting the EIS. The lawsuit alleged that work on the EIS had been deficient of any incorporation of county policies and regulations. The county said a resolution on the books since 2008 mandates coordination between state and federal agencies in plans that impact areas under the county's jurisdiction.