Montana at crossroads with future of energy grid
Guest column

Montana at crossroads with future of energy grid

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The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. Inside of this Overton window, we see the constant battle back and forth between the Democratic and Republican political parties in the U.S. Regardless of what the scientific community has reported to policymakers, the Overton window has trapped our political system in a tornado of middle-ground climate policy, leaving our greenhouse gas emissions on a steady incline.

As we nosedive towards catastrophic, irreversible climate tipping points, political leadership that matches up to the scale of the crisis is nowhere to be seen.

We are currently at a crossroads for the future of Montana’s energy grid. While Northwestern Energy executives are wanting to double their energy portfolio in the next five years with fracking for gas in our state and investing in more coal power, science is demanding drastic changes away from consuming fossil-fuel powered energy. The ratepayers of Montana and the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) must speak out against Northwestern Energy’s 2019 electricity supply resource procurement plan before it is too late.

NW Energy will need the PSC’s approval to fulfill their plans to frack for these four new gas plants in our beautiful state, and I am the only candidate who is taking a stance against these gas plants. The future of our state’s water, air quality and climate are at stake with these crucial PSC decisions. The time is now to vote for Public Service Commissioners who will take us down the correct path forward for our energy grid.

Energy is a necessity for our daily lives, and the PSC is the entity that stands between us and the profit-hungry utility monopolies. The PSC should act as a protective force to guarantee that all Montanans have affordable, sustainable access to utilities for generations to come. Unfortunately, our PSC has allowed the utility monopoly, Northwestern Energy to double their profits in the past five years by increasing Montanans’ energy rates. Not only do we have the most expensive power in the region, our energy monopoly and PSC are taking us down a path of environmental catastrophe in our state with these near future gas plants and coal investments. I will not allow this to continue.

Luckily, the technological solutions for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels are on the table and are currently being proposed to Northwestern Energy and the PSC. Instead of NorthWestern Energy’s proposed investments in these four fracked gas plants, they should invest in energy storage projects such as the Gordon Butte pumped storage hydro project. With two reservoirs connected by an energy-harvesting tunnel, the massive water battery, known as the Gordon Butte, can release water at any moment to generate 400MW of stored energy on to our energy grid. This is the same energy capacity as two of the proposed natural gas plants, but it does not release any greenhouse gas emissions during power generation. As ratepayers, we must demand that NorthWestern Energy doesn’t invest in these fracked gas plants.

We must not allow the Overton window to bring us down a path of political compliance, which ends with more Democratic and Republican commissioners approving Northwestern Energy’s fossil-fuel projects.

I am running for the PSC to ensure justice for the underrepresented voices, those struggling to pay their bills, and the people who are currently being affected by the climate crisis. I am driven by my love for our beautiful state and the passion to achieve social justice for all people. As your Public Service Commissioner, I will fight hard for Montana utility ratepayers every day.

Daniel Carlino of Missoula is a Democrat running to represent District 4 on the Montana Public Service Commission. 

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