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Environmental Group Challenges NorthWestern's Planned Natural Gas Power Plant

An environmental group is suing to stop construction of a natural gas-fired power plant in southeast Montana.

350 Montana in a complaint filed Thursday asks a Missoula judge to block approval of the project and declare that the process state regulators use to approve new electricity supply developments is unconstitutional.

NorthWestern Energy intends to build a 175-megawatt natural gas plant in Laurel, just west of Billings. The company on May 19 submitted its application for pre-approval from state electric utility regulators.

Jeff Smith with 350 Montana says the pre-approval process benefits the company over its customers.

“We’re lucky in Montana because we have so much hydroelectricity and so much really valuable wind resources and solar resources that we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels anymore,” Smith said.

NorthWestern has said it’s seeking to increase its capacity from on-demand resources like fossil fuels to meet customer need in the state. A spokesperson with NorthWestern was not immediately available for comment.

In addition to its lawsuit, 350 Montana filed a request with the state to become an intervenor in the facility’s pre-approval process.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.