We wish we had a choice

On Fridays, during the month of February, Missoulians are demonstrating in front of NorthWestern Energy’s office at 1903 Russell St. from 12-1 p.m. Typically held downtown Missoula each week, the weekly climate strike holds space for community members who want to stand in solidarity with climate strikers around the globe. 

Why are we striking at NorthWestern Energy this month? We’re two moms. And more than anything we wish we could switch energy companies. We compare brands and services all the time while taking care of our families, making choices based on budget, and our values. But, in the case of Montana’s monopoly energy company, we’re shackled to it, and so are most Montana households.

While energy companies across the West are pivoting away from fossil fuels due to the affordability and reliability of renewables, and their minimal climate impacts, Montana families are in the hands of a company that is doubling down on coal–leaving Montana’s energy future, our pocketbooks, and its own shareholders and employees, at risk. We’re in the hands of a company that is doing all it can to hide the costs of coal from ratepayers. In fact, it is currently petitioning the Montana Public Service Commission to keep the cost of coal for its Colstrip deal a secret

We don’t know about you, but NorthWestern Energy is one of our most expensive monthly bills. Their commitment to outdated and expensive technologies promises increased expenses for our families in the future–higher energy bills, and big contributions to negative climate impacts that will hurt our children.

NorthWestern could lead. They could invest in Montana’s future, their employees’ future, and the future of our children. We have abundant natural resources: abundant wind, and great solar potential. Why won’t they develop them?

To be clear, we’re very thankful for hardworking NorthWestern employees who keep the lights on and answer service calls in a friendly manner–we’re worried for their families, too. But we’re completely frustrated by being forced to financially support the irresponsible choices made by NorthWestern’s executives, knowing how adversely they will impact our family budgets, and the future of all Montana children.

So, we speak up through articles, and conversations, and by raising awareness about the company’s reckless trajectory. And just like you might expect from a monopoly, they don’t seem to want any kind of feedback, and they feel just fine about shutting the door on us. For example, after last week’s hour-long peaceful demonstration in Missoula, one of us went to pay her family’s bill and a NorthWestern manager met her and her 11-year-old son at the door and tried to refuse entry. After admonishing mother and child (and another older female customer) “not to make trouble,” they were allowed to enter the building and pay their bill. 

What other company that serves families could act like that and survive? It wouldn’t—if we had a choice.

What can we do? Right now, it’s important to comment to the PSC on NorthWestern’s current petition to keep the cost of coal secret. We can all contact the PSC today at 406-444-6199 and ask that the commission deny NorthWestern’s request for a Protective Order. 

What else? Continue to speak out, demonstrate (join us on Friday at NorthWestern in Missoula or hold your own strike at an office near you!), and pay close attention to the upcoming Montana Public Service Commission election (both the primary on June 2 and the general election next fall), and ensure our issues are addressed. If you care about your pocketbook and a livable future, be sure to vote in the Public Service Commissioner race.

Winona Bateman and Rachel Kantor, Families for a Livable Climate

NorthWestern Energy Climate Strike – Details on Facebook
Friday, Feb. 14, 12 – 1 p.m. NorthWestern Energy at 1903 Russell, Missoula

Show Mother Earth some love: Unist’ot’en Solidarity Rally
Friday Feb.14th @4:30 – Meet in front of the Wilma
Support the Wet’suwet’en people in their right to protect their traditional territory from unlawful pipelines. Visit: https://unistoten.camp/ for more information.


If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Winona Bateman

Winona Bateman is a concerned Montana voter, founder of Montana group Families for a Livable Climate, wife, and mother to Ellis, who she hopes has a livable future.

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  • The PSC is fully aware of the true incentive for NWE’s determination to maximize and prolong dependence on coal. As a regulated monopoly, NWE is guaranteed profitability based on a percentage of their rate base. A major portion of that rate base includes fuel costs for generation. The higher those costs, the larger the rate base. The larger the rate base, the more dollars needed from customers to satisfy their mandated profit margin. Compounding that is another aspect that NWE will fight desperately to keep from discussion. The larger the absolute profit garnered by NWE, the greater the impact on bonus plans provided senior executives.

    Does anyone have confidence that the PSC will devote any consideration of those factors in their deliberations? I certainly don’t.

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