NorthWestern Energy's gas proposal at odds with their mission, vision and values

Opinion in the Missoulian

Tom Lutey’s excellent article, on June 27, gave a great perspective of the conflicts between local cities goals and NorthWestern Energy’s goals. There are national legislative proposals in Congress and international trade considerations that are also crucial to understanding this issue for Montanans.

There are several bills in Congress (HR 2307, Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act; and Senate bill 685, America's Clean Future Fund Act and others) that tax fossil carbon to force producers to pay for their pollution and rebates money to people to help them transition to a low carbon economy. The International Monetary Fund has just published a recommendation for a carbon price floor of $75/ton by 2030.

The USA is one of only two out of 31 developed economy nations in the world that doesn’t have a price on carbon. The European Union (January 2023) and Canada are both planning to put trade tariffs on products imported from countries that do not have a carbon price. This is important because Americans would be paying those other countries money that could be put in our pockets, stimulating our economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Petroleum Institute, several large investment banks and firms are all calling for a price on carbon to address the droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, rising oceans as the most efficient, predictable way for businesses and families to transition away from fossil fuel emissions. 

Conservatives and liberals are acknowledging the need for national policy. Twenty-five Utah Republicans, including 19 current state legislators, recently published a call for a carbon price and dividend policy on June 4. Both U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines voted for the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which passed 92-8, demonstrating bipartisan support for action on climate change.

All this is important to debate between NorthWestern and Missoula, Helena and Bozeman over the appropriate energy investments to be made in Montana. Added context is the proposal’s conflict with NorthWestern's published "Vision, Mission and Values," which state:

Vision: “Enriching lives through a safe sustainable energy future.”

Mission: “Working together to provide safe, reliable, and innovative energy solutions that create value for customers, communities, employees, and investors.”

Values: “Safety, Excellence, Integrity, Environment, Respect, Community.”

NorthWestern’s gas proposal is neither safe nor sustainable for ratepayers. It is neither reliable nor innovative in creating value for their customers, communities, employees or investors. It does not meet their stated values. NorthWestern’s analysis is flawed because they don’t use a realistic price on carbon. Therefore their conclusion to build a natural gas plant without carbon capture and storage is flawed. If they had used a price from any of the national legislative proposals in their analysis, the natural gas plant would not be viable. Instead, the proposal puts ratepayers at risk of being stuck paying for energy that becomes exorbitantly expensive; does damage to the environment and human health; high energy prices hurts existing businesses and recruiting new businesses, thus hurting communities. All these consequences do not achieve excellence or integrity

There are three actions every citizen should do:

1. Tell your city council members, your county commissioners and state legislators to endorse one of the carbon price and rebate bills in Congress. This will show Daines, Tester and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale there is broad support for policy that will address the consequences of a changing climate, make polluters pay and put money in people’s pockets.

2. Tell the Public Service commissioner you want a realistic price on fossil carbon included in NorthWestern’s analysis so they fulfill the vision, mission and values of the company.

3. Call NorthWestern and demand they live up to their own vision and values.

Dave Atkins is a resident and ratepayer in Missoula, and co-leader of the Missoula Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.

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