Energy Environment Montana Politics

Random Notes, Missoula Edition

Montana’s Public Service Commission has never thought much of Missoula’s attempt to buy Mountain Water, the city’s privately held water supply.  It may be rethinking its involvement now that the global investment firm, The Carlisle Group, has sold Mountain Water to a Canadian utility company.

The sale of utilities is supposed to go through the PSC, not that it always guarantees good results. Montana Power’s sale in 1997 of its electrical generation system to Pennsylvania Power and Light, and its transmission grid to NorthWestern Energy, was approved by the PSC and we know how that turned out, but I digress.

It’s a convoluted story.  Missoula won its eminent domain case against Carlyle.  During the proceedings, though, Carlyle struck a deal to sell Mountain Water to Liberty Utilities, a subsidiary of the Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. of Canada.  The sale was pending before the PSC.

Carlyle just told the PSC to f**k off and went ahead with the sale.  I don’t believe that the conservative PSC was ever on the side of the City of Missoula.  It may be now that it’s been snubbed by Carlisle.

I’ve been getting my ear bent by folks in the environmental community, particularly those in Missoula’s clean energy and climate change organizations.  They are not happy with Gov. Steve Bullock’s picks for the citizen council that will draft an energy emissions plan. Montana must cut its carbon emissions by 47 percent by 2030 to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules. A plan for doing so needs to be submitted to the EPA by midsummer.

As MTN’s Mike Dennison notes, the council isn’t lacking in members from the energy industry. That upsets my Missoula friends and they’re casting about for someone who might run against Bullock in the 2016 Democratic primary.  That’s a tough row to hoe when you consider the governor already has $273,395 in the bank for his re-election campaign.  We’ll see if anyone comes forward.

A blogger in Eastern Montana shares these concerns.  Alexis Bonogofsky of the east of billings blog has a piece titled “Senator Duane Ankney’s Clean Power Plan Adivsory Council Announced.”  Ankney hails from Colstrip and is a supporter of the coal industry (an understatement).  Bullock appointed Ankney to the council but it should be noted that Republican Ankney crossed the aisle to vote and help pass the Disclose Act, the governor’s campaign finance reform bill.  Favors were owed.

Which is a great segue to this announcement.  The Disclose Act will be the topic of discussion at tonight’s Missoula County Democrats monthly meeting.  Andy Huff, Bullock’s chief legal counsel, will outline Montana’s new campaign finance law.  If you’re interested in this stuff, it’s Tuesday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine Street.



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  • The composition of Bullock’s clean power advisory council puts the energy industry on the spot. If the industry dominated council produces an acceptable, workable plan, the industry will back the plan. If the council doesn’t produce an acceptable plan, the industry will be exposed as uncooperative. Either outcome is better than a plan produced by a green council that allows the energy industry to make environmentalists the villains.

    Bullock does need a primary opponent, so if a green has the green to pay the filing fee, that green should go for it.

    • I hope it plays out like that, James. A different scenario could be a strong environmental presence on the council that forges a good plan and the energy industry looks bad by renouncing it. No matter who the players are, it’s bound to be contentious but interesting to follow.

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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