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energy

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to streamline the process for oil and gas development on federal lands. Zinke signed an order Thursday mandating Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sales be held in each state on at least a quarterly basis.

Zinke noted during a telephone press conference that under the Obama administration BLM fell far short of that legally-mandated limit.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Nicky Ouellet

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says removing bureaucratic obstacles to development on federal land can create jobs and offer hope to nearby communities.

Zinke spoke Tuesday at the Western Governors' Association annual meeting in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. He says the Interior Department and other land management agencies need to better cooperate, and hinted of major changes in store.

Scientists measuring the terminus of Grinnell Glacier, in Glacier National Park.
Glacier National Park

Montana Governor Steve Bullock describes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord as, “short sighted and dangerous.”

Bullock, a Democrat, released a statement Thursday saying climate change is real and poses a direct threat to Montana’s way of life and economy.

A 2005 state law requires Montana utilities to buy a total of 75 megawatts of energy from small-scale, locally owned producers of renewable electricity from wind, solar, and hydro sources.
(PD)

Montana’s largest utility provider announced Wednesday it is looking for small-scale renewable energy projects that it’s required by law to buy. But utilities and their regulators in Montana say that requirement is outdated, and that the law should be repealed.

Failed Legislation Means Uncertainty For Colstrip's Future

May 3, 2017
The Colstrip Power Plant consists of four separate coal-fired generating units, collectively owned by Puget Sound Energy, Talen Energy, Avista Corporation, PacifiCorp and NorthWestern Energy.
Beth Saboe

When Montana's 2017 Legislature adjourned on April 28, Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, ended almost right where he began.

At the session's beginning, he helped draw up several bills that would help his community, which is facing the impending closure of two out of four units at its massive coal-fired electrical plant. By the time lawmakers left the Capitol, many of the bills – aimed at easing impacts on jobs, tax revenues and real estate – were dead.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

Montana's utility regulators won a drawn out legislative struggle with the state’s largest utility today. A bill preventing NorthWestern Energy from passing on some its costs to customers cleared the Senate.

The Colstrip Power Plant consists of four separate coal-fired generating units, collectively owned by Puget Sound Energy, Talen Energy, Avista Corporation, PacifiCorp and NorthWestern Energy.
Beth Saboe

After announcing a soon-to-be-released plan to help keep parts of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip open, Montana’s Speaker of the House now says that plan is still up in the air. During the GOP rebuttal to Governor Steve Bullock’s State of the State address in January, Speaker Austin Knudsen said he would be introducing legislation in the upcoming days to help keep Colstrip Units 1 and 2 open for as long as possible.

Republican Sen. Duane Ankney from Colstrip says the bill isn’t supposed to penalize the companies for leaving, but to help set expectations for when they do.
Mike Albans

The state senator from Colstrip is asking lawmakers in Helena to consider a bill requiring a more detailed cleanup plan for when two coal-fired electric generators in his town shut down.

On Monday, Republican Duane Ankney proposed the first of several bills he is bringing forward this legislative session directed at the future of Colstrip

Feds Dismiss Tongue River Railroad Permit
(PD)

A yearlong federal review shows coal sales from public lands need to be modernized to deal with climate change and give taxpayers a fair return. The Interior Department imposed a moratorium on new coal sales last year. It's now considering raising royalty rates and requiring compensation from mining companies to offset coal's effect on climate change.

Power line
(PD)

Federal regulators today approved a billion dollar energy storage project in Meagher County. The 400-megawatt pumped storage project would supplement electricity from wind turbines and other sources.

Rep. Ryan Zinke is rumored to be President-elect Trump's nominee for secretary of the Interior.
Eric Whitney

The news that Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke is apparently President-elect Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Interior is still reverberating across the country and in Montana. For perspective, we’re now joined by Rob Saldin, a political science professor at the University of Montana, and analyst for MTPR. I asked him for his initial impression of the news:

Groups To Rally For Alternative Energy In Butte

Oct 7, 2016
A 2005 state law requires Montana utilities to buy a total of 75 megawatts of energy from small-scale, locally owned producers of renewable electricity from wind, solar, and hydro sources.
(PD)

On Monday, environmental advocates will protest in front of NorthWestern Energy’s Montana headquarters in Butte. The group 350 Missoula and others say NorthWestern isn’t moving quickly enough towards renewable sources of electricity. The rally is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. Monday at Emma Park in Butte, followed by speakers from the Montana Environmental Information Center and other groups in front of NorthWestern Energy’s headquarters.

Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)

A new study says that Montana’s potential for wind energy production is better than that of the Columbia River Gorge, between Oregon and Washington.

Wind Manufacturing Booms In CO, Stalls In WY

Jul 19, 2016
Wind turbines
Flickr user jabzoog

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Governor Steve Bullock
Corin Cates-Carney

On Tuesday, Governor Steve Bullock released a plan to guide Montana’s energy future.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

Montana’s utility regulators took unprecedented action Thursday when they suspended price rates for solar energy. It's a win for NorthWestern Energy, but it could slow growth in Montana’s solar energy industry.

U.S. officials approved a 117 million-ton expansion of a Montana coal mine after concluding that burning the fuel would have a minor impact on the nation's overall greenhouse gas emissions, according to documents released Thursday.
Courtesy USDA NRCS

Montana coal production is down by nearly a third of what it was last year. From January to the end of April, coal companies in Montana produced 9.6 million tons of coal, 4 million fewer tons than last year.

Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)

A federal law from the 1970s is pushing Montana’s Public Service Commission to act as mediator between large utility companies and small renewable energy providers as they debate the price of electricity.

Governor Bullock Brings Energy Roundtable To Colstrip

May 31, 2016
Colstrip power plant, Montana
Flicker User ambib (CC-BY-NC)

Governor Steve Bullock brought his energy round table discussion to Colstrip to talk about Montana’s energy future. Several citizens of Colstrip were more concerned about their economic future.

Coal with the town of Colstrip in the background
Amy Martin

On Monday the operator of the Colstrip power plant said it wants out of its contract to run the coal-burning facility. Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy owns part of the plant and operates the entire facility. The company says it is losing millions of dollars there. Governor Bullock talked with MTPR’s Corin Cates Carney Wednesday.

Community Solar Project Opens In Ravalli County

May 26, 2016
Mark Grotbo, general manager of Ravalli Electric Co-op stands in front of the solar panels that now line the side of Highway 93 near Victor.
Bree Zender

Governor Steve Bullock was in Victor Thursday to help open a new private solar energy facility.

A stretch of solar panels now line the side of Highway 93 near Victor. The new facility, Valley Solar, is the third community solar energy project to open in Montana. Gov. Steve Bullock spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

An Uneven Exchange: Coal Miners Versus Coal Consumers

May 23, 2016
Powder river coal mine.
U.S. Geological Survey

There’s a polarized debate going on in this country about the future of fossil fuels — specifically coal. As a country, we are using less and less coal, but we still burn hundreds of million of tons of it each year for electricity. And so beneath that debate is a real disconnect between the people who produce coal, and those who consume it. The debate and the divide were very much on display recently at a public event in Casper, Wyoming. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.

Environmentalists, lawmakers, coal miners, and advocates of all types gathered to have their say at the meeting, hosted by the Department of the Interior.

Governor Steve Bullock met with utility companies and advocates for energy efficiency and low-income Montanans in Missoula Wednesday. It was the second in a series of roundtable discussions on energy Bullock is hosting across the state.

Climate Activists Debate Over Tactics

May 3, 2016
About 60 people gathered on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn to promote renewable energy. The March 29, 2016 rally was sponsored by the Northern Plains Resource Council.
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

The debate about whether or not humans are warming the planet is essentially over – 97 percent of climate scientists agree that we are. But the debate over tactics, about how to reduce our carbon emissions, is just starting to heat up.

Wind turbines
Flickr user jabzoog

A couple of renewable energy groups are trying to change the conversation about energy policy in Montana.

"The markets we sell electricity to are moving away from coal. Change is coming."

Both of Montana’s senators praised the energy bill passed by the Senate today.

Billings Senior High School saved taxpayers $85,000 in energy costs over a 4-month period.

Governor Steve Bullock applauds the effort and awarded the school $1,000 for its efforts under the SMART (Saving Money and Resources Today) Schools Challenge. 

During a visit to Billings Senior, Bullock recognized the school for providing a learning environment that’s also energy sustainable.

Gov. Steve Bullock (file photo)
Josh Burnham

Tuesday, Governor Steve Bullock announced he’s convening what he calls a “working group” to talk about potential changes in ownership of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant. Or at least three of its four generating units. We talked with Gov. Bullock about his plans for this Colstrip working group.

Lack Of Transmission Facilities Hampers Montana Wind Generation

Mar 31, 2016
Power line
(PD)

Montana is rich in wind resources, but the demand currently doesn’t support the high cost, according to wind and utility expert.

Why Energy's Dirty Air Pollution Costs Are Dropping

Mar 31, 2016
(PD)

We often hear about the economic costs of environmental regulation on the energy industry. But there’s a flipside to that equation — the price society pays for pollution. One scientist has added up those costs — and found they’re going down. For Inside Energy, the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier went to find out why.

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