The Montana Secretary of State has given supporters of a 2018 ballot initiative that would require utility companies to use much more renewable energy approval to start collecting signatures.
Initiative 184 would require public utility companies to gradually increase their use of renewable energy from the current level of 15 percent to 80 percent by 2050.
The initiative's main supporter, Russ Doty, proposed a similar initiative in 2016, but did not collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot. He says he plans on getting the 25,000 signatures needed this year by arguing that over the next few decades, climate change will likely kill more jobs in Montana than scaling back coal production.
"As people realize that, they're becoming more and more aware that we have to do something," says Doty.
He says the initiative would also implement a tax on electricity to help coal workers who lose their jobs because of the transition to renewable energy. Supporters will need to collect the signatures by June to get the initiative on the ballot, and then Montanans would decide whether or not to make it law in November 2018.
The Secretary of State has now approved two ballot initiative groups to start collecting signatures. The other initiative, I-183 seeks to require people to use public restrooms and locker rooms designated for their gender at birth.
Correction: An earlier version of the story reported the wrong year for when I-184 would require public utilities to meet the 80 percent renewable threshold. We regret the error.