Library filed under Transmission from Montana
Xcel Energy Inc. announced it was pulling out of the Mountain West Transmission Group, a collection of eight Rocky Mountain utilities that had been pondering a wider partnership with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). The move underscores the difficulty of uniting the region's disparate utilities under a regional transmission organization ...It also represented a setback for renewable advocates, who believe an integrated grid will facilitate the expansion of wind and solar in the West's coal-centric power sector.
A bill that would roll back some of the eminent domain powers granted by the 2011 Montana Legislature was debated Tuesday in Helena before a packed house at the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
Swandal's ruling says MATL has the right to use eminent domain, but the judge still must decide whether the power line is a "necessity" and a "public use." The court will hear oral arguments on those questions March 2 in Teton County.
But Friedman said that the project "raises questions about the sufficiency and effectiveness of internal controls" at Western Area Power Authority. "In the event of a project failure, Western and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer could bear a large financial burden," he wrote.
"The MATL experience to date raises questions about the sufficiency and effectiveness of internal controls that Western had in place," the report stated. "The stalled wind power transmission project is clearly at risk with the outcome uncertain. In the event of a project failure, Western and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer could bear a large financial burden."
NorthWestern Energy's Mountain States Transmission Intertie would carry 1,500 megawatts, much of it wind power, from central Montana to Midpoint, Idaho. But to do it, the 500-kilovolt line, known as MSTI, must cross a 430-mile mishmash of lands owned by residents, ranchers, farmers, counties, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Energy Department. The proposal has stirred a fierce debate in the state.
Like many landowners in Montana, Stephens and Maurer said it would make a big difference if the MATL line was designed to deliver power to Montanans instead of being shipped elsewhere. "It would make a hell of a difference," Maurer said. "The local people wouldn't treat you this way."
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.
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.
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."
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.
"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."
"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."
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.
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.
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.