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Sidney , Montana
July 10, 2019     Sidney Herald
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July 10, 2019

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AI4 SIDNEY HERALD, WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2019 o Citing newspaper op-eds, judge finds Montana utility regulators biased against solar development BY ERIC DIETRICH columns published by Montanaapparently believes burning the Montana Free Press newspapers. U.S. Constitution is an accept- "Out-of-state and foreign in- able CO2 emission." A state district court judge terests are applying increased In the same piece, Koopman has concluded that Montana's pressure on lawmakers, and criticized renewable energy Republican-controlled utility consumers, to replace base load sources as less reliable than commission violated the due power with wind, solar, and geo- coal and natural gas plants and process rights of a solar energy thermal sources," Commissioncalled it an "unsettled question" company, writing that newspa- Chairman Brad Johnson wrote whether CO2 emissions are "in per guest columns published by in a column published this week net effect, a climatic calamity commissioners as a rate case by the Montana Standard, Great or an earth-greening benefit." was pending constitute evidence Falls Tribune, and Bozeman (Research by U.S. Environmen- of bias. Daily Chronicle. "I share the tal Protection Agency scientists In a June 18 ruling in a suit concern with many that shift- estimates that unmitigated cli- over the MTSUN project, an ing away from reliable base load mate change will cost the U.S. 80-megawatt solar farm pro- power will eventually lead to economy "hundreds of billions" posed near Billings, Judge brownouts." of dollars annually by the end of James Manley of Polson agreed Citing similar op-eds and a the century.) with solar advocates who com- 2017 "hot mic" comment when In his ruling, Manley wrote plained they weren't getting fair Commissioner Bob Lake ap- that utility commissioners treatment from the commission, peared to admit the PSC was treated what should have been "The Commission violated setting rates and contract a judicial-style proceeding as an MTSUN's due process rights in lengths that discourage solar opportunity to advance a legis- this proceeding by making de- development, solar advocateslative-style agenda. cisions based on bias and policy have argued that the commis-Elected bodies like the Pub- preferences and in conflict with sion isn't giving them a fair lic Service Commission, school the recorded evidence," Manley shake, boards, and city commissions in wrote. Judge Manley, who in April Montana must routinely navi- Attorneys for the PSC said handed solar advocates a wingate proceedings in which their the columns were a reasonable by ordering the PSC to revise members wear different legal effort by elected commissioners its regulations so terms arehats, addressing "quasi-legisla- to communicate with voters and more favorable to solar projects, tive" matters where board mem- that they expect the ruling to be agreed. "The published opinion bers have a lawmaker-like role appealed, articles criticizing solar devel- in setting policy, and "quasi-ju- At issue in the case are the opers are evidence of bias on the dicial" ones where their job is to terms of contracts for MTSUN part of the Commissioners," he fairly apply existing rules to a and other companies that want wrote this month, particular situation. to develop solar power projects Court records in the case in- "Here, the Commission im- and sell energy into the Mon- clude five columns by commis- properly attempted to act as a tana power grid, most of which sioners Johnson, Roger Koop-quasi-legislative body by imple- is controlled by NorthWestern man, and Tony O'Donnell pub-menting new policy rather than Energy. Solar developers are lished by Montana newspapersacting as an impartial trier of guaranteed access to the grid by in 2016 and 2017. fact," Manley wrote. a 1970s-era federal law, but it's In one column, published by Manley's ruling orders the up to the PSC to referee disputes the Billings Gazette Aug. 4, 2016, PSC to revise the contract terms over contract lengths and rates. Johnson argued that the PSC for the MTSUN project. Like It's a tricky balance for com- was simply trying to preventthe April ruling, which applies missioners to strike: Set rates utility consumers from subsi- to other projects, PSC attorneys too low, and renewable energy dizing solar projects with high- say it's likely to be appealed. projects that could create jobs er electricity bills. He called the "There's a delicate balance and diversify Montana's elec- PSC's critics "environmentalbetween allowing politically tricity supply can't sell their activists" and accused "corpo- elected officials explain their power for enough to break even. rate solar developers" of "throw- decision making to their con- But set terms too favorable to ing ratepayers under the bus to stituents and ensuring that par- solar projects and developers boost their own profits." ties are provided fair process get a windfall, making out with In another, published by thebefore tribunals like the PSC," comfy profits from NorthWest- Great Falls Tribune, Missou-said PSC staff attorney Jeremi- ern, which passes the expense lian, and Bozeman Daily Chron- ah Langston. "We believe that on to Montana consumers in the icle in January 2016, Koopman individual commissioners were form of higher bills, wrote that "coal generated elec- correct to write to news outlets Complicating matters, Mon- tricity is still among the cheap- but we welcome the Montana tana's five public service com- est, most reliable sources of en- Supreme Court's clarification missioners, all Republicans, ergy available to Montana rate- on the issue." have made no secret of their payers--and would continue to PSC Chairman Johnson de- affinity for coal power, and rou- be, if not for the extreme regula- clined through an agency tinely express skepticism about tory burden now bearing downspokesman to comment, cit- the viability of renewable en- on that industry by a power-ob- ing "the sensitivity of the legal ergy sources in guest opinion sessed federal agency (EPA) that matter." State public health of- dresses how to quit va- ficials today announced ping using best practic- a free online resource, es and offers new ways that offers coaching and to reach a coach using support to young Mon- live text messaging and tanans who want to stop online chat. Montana using tobacco products, youth can text or call particularly electronic 1-855-891-9989 or visit cigarettes like JUUL. to "The number of enroll. young Montanans ad- My Life, My Quit pro- dicted to e-cigarettes is vides Montanans under alarming," said DPHHS the age of 18 with access Director Sheila Hogan. to free, tailored resourc- "It's unfortunate that es for quitting, which people under 18 have include: already been exposed Youth coaches to harmful substanc- trained on the best es like tobacco, but it's ways to build relation- critical we offer every ships with the target resource possible to audience. help them quit now to Five coaching ses- avoid a lifelong addic- sions by phone, live tion. I'm excited this texting or chat with a free tool will allow coach who will listen young people to quit and help teens navigate confidentially with a social situations while plan tailored to their finding healthy ways to needs." cope with stress. My Life, My Quit 100 percent confi- comes after the U.S. dential enrollment and Surgeon General de- coaching. No one will clared youth e-cigarette know a youth utilizes use an epidemic in,De- My Life, My Quit with- cember 2018. Data from out their permission. the National Youth A dedicated toll-free Tobacco Survey show number (1-855-891-9989) high school e-cigarette for real-time coaching. use rose 78 percent from Website (mylifemy- 2017 to 2018. with online In Montana, e-ciga- enrollment, chat with a rettes are now the most live coach, information eommonly used tobacco about vaping and tobac- product among youth, co, and activities to sup- Almost half of high port quitting. school students have Additional text mes- tried e-cigarettes and sages for support to quit more than 22 percent vaping, smoking, or of high school students chewing tobacco. currently use e-ciga- Promotional and rettes, compared to only educational materials 4 percent of adults, designed for youth with Nicotine, no matter messages from their how it's delivered, is peers about quitting to- unsafe for youth and bacco and vaping, and young adults and can how to ask for support. harm their developing A water-marked cer- brains. Nine out of 10 tificate of completion of smokers start before the program. age 18 and youth who For more information start using tobacco about this resource, products before their contact the Montana brains are fully devel- Tobacco Use Prevention oped are at a greater Program at 406-444-7408 risk of addiction, or email infotobaccof- My Life, My Quit ad- Donations to wolf mitigation account being accepted Beginning July 1, The voluntary wolf donations to the vol- mitigation account untary wolf mitiga- was established by tion account will be House Bill 291 in the accepted through 2019 Legislature and Montana Fish, Wild- became effective July life & Parks. Those in- 1. terested can submit a Funding from the donation two ways: account will be used By selecting the by the Montana De- Wolf Mitigation dona- partment of Livestock tion option under the to contract for wolf Conservation heading management with the on FWP's Online Li- U.S. Department of cense Service website Agriculture's Wild- . I n p e r s o n a t life Services for flight any FWP License time, collaring and le- Provider thal control of wolves. ill STOP AND SEE THE DENT REPAIR SPEClAUSTS AT 1ST CHOICEI (406) ld:Choice Collision Center 615 Cambrian Lane (Hwy !6NW) Sidney, MT All new and renewing subscribers are entered to win a grill from Johnson Hardware & Furniture. iOHNSON IIIIIII [ Ill I I I I III I II IIIIIII 31 0 2nd Ave. NE, Sidney, MT (406) 433-2403 I