Let's support climate, energy and sustainability bills in 2019
The 2019 Montana Legislature has adjourned! Thanks to all who took action and spoke up - your efforts truly made an impact and helped stop some really bad bills in their tracks. And thanks as always to our great partners on the ground in Helena, especially MEIC and MREA, for keeping up with every twist and turn!
There are still a few bills on the governor's desk (see Active Bills below) - call and ask for a veto if you haven't yet.
Read on for a recap of the fate of various bills we tracked over the course of the session...
Current Active Bills:
HB 487 (Rep. Skees). Passed by legislature and on its way to the Governor's desk. Call Governor Steve Bullock at (406) 444-3111 and ask that he veto HB 487. From MREA: This bill allows existing hydro-electric dams to be included in the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and adds hydropower as an eligible resource in the Community Renewable Energy Project (CREP) provisions. The RPS was designed to encourage the development of new renewable energy projects in Montana to continue pushing our utilities to develop clean energy supply resources. By allowing existing hydro projects into the RPS and CREP provisions, the bill is defeating the purpose of the RPS.
SB 93 (Sen. Richmond). Bill Passed by legislature. Please call Governor Bullock and ask him to veto. This bill discriminates against large scale solar development by adding additional red tape requirements. We should be encouraging these types of clean, renewable energy sources, not deterring them. These projects are also opportunities for Montana's solar industry to expand their businesses. This bill would create yet another legislative roadblock preventing more renewable energy development in Montana.
HB 597. Generally Revise Utility Regulation. Bill passed by legislature. This bill ended up being passed WITHOUT an amendments incorporating language from SB331; however, it is still problematic. From MEIC: "This bill attempts to require utilities to conduct competitive bidding processes when buying new power plants, but instead it includes massive loopholes in that requirement, defeating the purpose and exposing ratepayers to overpriced energy. Called the “opportunity resource” loophole, it’s designed to allow NorthWestern Energy to purchase a coal plant without a competitive bidding process. This will expose ratepayers to overpriced energy. Call Governor Steve Bullock at (406) 444-3111 and ask that he veto HB 597.
Other Climate and Clean Energy Bills in the 2019 Session
HB 144. Eliminate solar and energy conservation tax credits. 4/11: tabled in committee. This bill would negatively affect solar jobs and deter local investment by thousands of Montanans by eliminating tax incentives for rooftop solar systems, specifically net metering tax credits. Montana’s solar industry is starting to expand, creating new, well-paying jobs across the state. Instead of seeking to help these new jobs and businesses grow, this bill bluntly targets only net metering tax credits for elimination. Find more on why this is a bad bill here.
SB 331. Bill failed in 3rd reading in House! This bill was introduced as a replacement to SB 278 but it is not an improvement. It would still have allowed NorthWestern to pass along Colstrip ownership and cleanup costs to ratepayers, without oversight of the PSC. Here are a couple articles from the Billings Gazette and the Montana Free Press, and more about this bill from our partners at MEIC.
SB 245. Establish commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. As of 4/12: Bill tabled in House Taxation committee. Thanks Northern Plains Resource Council for bringing this one forward, we were hopeful. From the MT PACE website, here's a quick summary of what it would have done: C-PACE is a financing tool that allows property owners to secure 100% upfront financing for energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy upgrades to commercial buildings. The cost of these upgrades is repaid as a small assessment on the property's annual tax bill over a term of up to 20 years. The annual energy savings for C-PACE projects are designed to exceed the annual assessment payment, so property owners save money from the start. This legislation gives the "green light" to counties across the state to start allowing people to take advantage of the program. Once the program is enabled, it is voluntary for both counties and individuals.
HB 78. Require public hearings for utility planning. Bill tabled in Senate Energy committee. HB 78 would have required for-profit electric utilities (i.e. NorthWestern Energy) to hold at least 2 public meetings as part of their long-term resource planning processes - a step forward for transparency and consumer protection. Having at least two public planning meetings allows more experts to provide perspective and feedback to the utility that it might not otherwise have access to or consider. All other major utilities in the northwest hold planning meetings that are open for anyone to attend - only NorthWestern currently has closed-door, invite-only meetings!
SB 278. The Blank Check to NorthWestern Energy bill. Bill tabled in committee, but replaced by SB 331. Sponsored by Senator Tom Richmond (R-Billings), would require the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve any and all costs that NorthWestern Energy demands for its existing ownership of the Colstrip plant as well as any additional ownership or investments in the plant. From our friends at MCV: The PSC exists to regulate monopoly utilities and assure they don’t gouge electricity customers or unfairly charge costs that the utility's shareholders should pay. Utility commission scrutiny helps guarantee that utilities charge a fair price for electricity. Without that oversight, utility rates could go up. NorthWestern’s customers deserve and require the same protections as everyone else.
HB 704. Tabled in committee/missed transmittal deadline. "The Montana Solar Schools Act" would create a new state fund that will provide grants for public school districts to install solar panels on the roofs of schools across the state. Solar installations on schools are a win-win-win: they save schools money which can be invested into other programs, they provide educational opportunities for students on energy and technology, and they support Montana's small, locally owned renewable energy industry. Public facilities like schools are ineligible for tax credits and other financing options, often leaving them with little to no options to help with funding an installation. A grant program like this would help power our schools with clean, renewable energy while providing local jobs and educational opportunities for our youth. Please contact the House Energy Committee members and ask them to support this bill.
SB 190, Establish targets, monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman), Motion to pass bill out of committee failed. Thank you Sen. Phillips for bringing this bill forward. This bill would establish statewide carbon emissions reduction targets and an emissions monitoring and reporting framework.
HB 193, Establish a carbon tax and distribute revenue. Sponsored by Rep. Dunwell (D-Helena). Tabled in committee. This bill requires large sources of greenhouse gases (i.e., coal-fired power plants and refineries) to pay $10 per ton of greenhouse gases that they emit and would require large industrial polluters to incorporate climate risks caused by greenhouse gases into the cost of doing business. Thanks Rep. Dunwell for carrying this bill.
HB 241. Require public utilities to report a plan for 100% renewable use. Tabled in committee. Thanks Rep. Olsen for bringing this bill forward. Across the country 100% clean energy goals are becoming mainstream. California and Hawaii both passed state laws to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045. In Washington State, legislation has been introduced to require them to achieve 100% clean energy also by 2045. Additionally, over 100 cities around the country have committed to 100% clean energy goals. Mapping out the options, timelines, challenges, and benefits for Montana public utilities to reach 100% clean energy would be a prudent step forward.
Zero Waste and plastic reduction: Two bills to reduce plastics - SB 120 and SB 121, were tabled in committee. Read about these in the Missoula Current. Thank You Senator Malek for bringing these forward. We also liked HB 165: Phaseout Use of Styrofoam in Montana Food and Hospitality Industries. but it was tabled in committee. Thanks for trying Representative Marler.
HJ 16, sponsored by Rep. Chris Pope (D–Bozeman), is an electric vehicle infrastructure preparedness study bill. Bill failed committee vote.
HB 418. Tabled in Committee. From our friends at MEIC: "HB 418 would throw out scientific consensus surrounding climate change and establish a policy of miseducating students about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on our climate, economy, and social well-being. Further, it aims to eliminate any tax incentives intended to address climate change and inform public opinion on the topic. The bill would have a seriously harmful, multi-generational effect on how we address climate change in Montana. It would establish precedent that could ultimately take the steering wheel out of Montana’s hands in creating climate policy that best suits the state’s interests."
HB 415. Tabled in Committee. This bill would prohibit the state from implementing federal regulation limiting greenhouse gas pollution and would also prohibit any state employee from participating in any national discussion of greenhouse gas regulatory programs, meaning Montana's opinion won't be considered when the federal government crafts regulation on climate change.
SB 188, Revise electricity supply resource planning and acquisition. Sponsored by Sen. Malek (D-Missoula), Bill died in committee. Would increase transparency and consumer protection by establishing an advisory committee and requiring a competitive solicitation process as part of public utilities’ resource planning.
SJ 8, sponsored by Sen. Barrett (D-Missoula), is a joint resolution to the U.S. Congress that asks the federal government to change its current policy on climate change and join the international community in making a joint, concerted effort to implement global policy that would scale-back greenhouse gas emissions--among other important, forward-thinking policies--heading into the future. Missed transmittal deadline.
SB 189, the Montana Climate Action Act, sponsored by Sen. Barrett (D-Missoula). Tabled in committee. Would establish a tax on carbon emissions and distribute the revenue via a property tax relief “circuit breaker”. Thanks for bringing this forward, Sen. Barrett.
SB 199. Bill tabled in committee. Another bad bill that would remove Public Service Commission oversight from utility expenses. Read MEIC's summary here.
Add your voice! How to contact legislators & be an advocate:
MT LEGISLATURE WEBSITE It's easy to navigate - you can find bills, watch or listen to hearings and connect with your legislator.
LOOK UP BILL INFORMATION
CONTACT LEGISLATORS & COMMITTEES
2 easy ways:
1) Leave a voice message. Call the Capitol at (406) 444-4800 and request to leave messages for the committee members or an individual legislator. Leave a message Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (8 a.m. until adjournment on Saturdays).
2) Send an email. You can send an email to a committee or to an individual legislator via the online web messaging form.
If you do not know who your legislators are, you can search by zip code on Open State's website.
Check out this great resource all about how to have your say at legislative committee hearings.
Connect directly with our favorite partners:
These folks are at the Capitol daily and can stay up to date on the issues that matter to clean energy!
Montana Renewable Energy Association: Care about solar energy? Check out Andrew's recent blog post and sign up for MREA's email list.
Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC): They've been doing this for years. Sign up for their e-alerts here.
MEIC's 2019 Legislature page and bill tracker are good to keep bookmarked. These lists may be handy for contacting legislators:
House Committee assignments
Senate Committee assignments