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Bill Would Allow NorthWestern To Pass Future Colstrip Costs Onto Customers

A state Senate committee has narrowly endorsed a bill that could allow NorthWestern Energy to pass costs on to customers if the company buys more of a share in the Colstrip coal-fired power plant.

The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee voted 7-6 to advance the policy that could allow NorthWestern to collect money from ratepayers for its future investments in Colstrip, with approval from state utility regulators on the Public Service Commission.

Commissioners on the PSC have voiced opposition to the bill, saying that the bill hurts ratepayers. Environmental groups are also opposing the bill for similar reasons.

Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick and other supporters say the policy will help NorthWestern buy a needed power producing source for the state.

Before passing out of committee the bill was amended to give the PSC more oversight of Northwestern’s potential purchase. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for debate.

NorthWestern previously attempted to buy a share of the power plant from a Washington state based part owner, but the deal fell through.

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