In separate interviews, Colstrip Republican Sen. Duane Ankney and MEIC lobbyist Anne Hedges sat down with Montana Lowdown host John Adams to discuss Senate Bill 331. Credit: JOHN S. ADAMS / MTFP

PART 1: Environmental advocate Anne Hedges on why Senate Bill 331 is the “worst bill since deregulation”

Senate Bill 331 has emerged as one of the most significant and controversial bills of the 2019 Legislative session.

Backers of the proposal say it shores-up baseload electricity generation for the state’s largest utility, NorthWestern Energy, while giving some hope to the community and workers in Colstrip, where the Colstrip power plant is located.

But opponents say the bill does little more than give the monopoly utility and its shareholders a “blank check” courtesy of NorthWestern Energy’s electricity ratepayers.

In the first installment of a special two-part Montana Lowdown podcast, longtime environmental advocate Anne Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center explains why she and other opponents think SB 331 is the worst bill since the Legislature’s deregulation of Montana’s power industry in 1997.

PART 2: Sen. Duane Ankney on how Senate Bill 331 could save the state budget, and Colstrip

SB 331 is only three pages long, but is widely seen as one of the most significant and far-reaching pieces of legislation state lawmakers are considering this session.

The bill would allow NorthWestern Energy to purchase an additional 150 megawatts of power from Colstrip Units 3 & 4 at a cost of no more than $1 and would limit the Public Service Commission’s oversight authority over how NorthWestern passes on the costs of acquiring additional Colstrip generation to its customers.

Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, isn’t the lead sponsor of the bill, but by all accounts, the proposal is his idea.

In the second part of a two-part Montana Lowdown podcast exploring SB 331, Ankney, a former coal miner, explains why he thinks SB 331 is a good bill, and why NorthWestern ratepayers shouldn’t fear rising utility cost because of it.

Montana Free Press was founded by veteran award-winning investigative and political reporter John S. Adams. John was formerly the Capital Bureau Chief of the Great Falls Tribune and a correspondent for USA TODAY. John is known as a dogged investigator and the host of the MT Lowdown podcast whose unbiased reporting has changed the shape of Montana politics. Contact John at, or follow him on Twitter.