This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday.
The Public Service Commision, the state’s elected utility board, is hitting the road this week to discuss NorthWestern Energy’s loosely sketched plan for meeting its anticipated energy demand over the next two decades.
Starting Monday with an appearance in Great Falls, commissioners will hear what constituents like, or don’t like, in NorthWestern’s 2023 Integrated Resource Plan. In that plan, Montana’s largest electric utility eyes gas plant generation and pumped hydropower, a technology that’s been proposed but not implemented in the state.
The commission weighs in on the plan as part of its charge to balance the health of NorthWestern’s finances with the concerns of the monopoly utility’s customers, who aren’t able to shop around for other utility providers if they don’t like what the utility is offering — or charging for its service. Through a pre-approval process or a rate case (like the one the PSC is currently deciding for NorthWestern’s $81 million electricity increase), the commission’s work will intersect with any major power-generating acquisitions.
All listening sessions, except the one scheduled to take place in Helena from 12 to 2 p.m., will take place in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m. First up is Great Falls on Monday, followed by Helena on Tuesday, Billings on Wednesday and Butte on Thursday. Missoula is last in the mix with a session scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 22. Details about each location’s meeting are available here.
A lack of access to navigators in rural locales to help Medicaid enrollees keep their coverage or find other insurance if they’re no longer eligible could exacerbate the difficulties rural residents face.
Three intervenors joined the ongoing litigation over House Bill 562 this week, arguing that the currently blocked law is critical to their plans to open specialized choice schools in their communities.
Nearly three months after a Montana Rail Link train derailed near Reed Point, releasing 419,000 pounds of asphalt into the Yellowstone River, state agencies began advising anglers this week not to eat any fish caught on a nearly 50-mile stretch of the river.