Missoula energy, part III

by Pete Talbot

It looks like the mayor and city council may be changing their collective minds about buying power from Electric City Power but it’s not a wrap, yet. This email went out this morning from the mayor:

Good morning, council members.

About three weeks ago, I asked you to support a letter of intent to enter into an agreement purchase electricity from Electric City Power at a discount estimated at between 10 and 15 percent.

On Monday evening, under new business, I’ll ask you to withdraw that letter.

While I still think our goals (save about $70,000 each year; support the concepts of public power, local choice and alternative energy; support the City of Great Falls) are valid, the controversy over the Highwood Generating Station and its future, questions about Electric City’s long-term financial stability, uncertainty over the implications of House Bill 25 and considerable negative public comment lead me to believe that the time isn’t right to pursue this alternative. I’ve spoken with John Lawton and Colleen Balzarini of Great Falls; they understand my concerns and have no problem with us withdrawing our letter of intent.

There are some points I’m going to continue to bring up with the folks we serve and the folks who serve us in the Legislature, including:

Energy costs for the City of Missoula, its residents and its businesses are high and unpredictable. I think the Montana Legislature is trying to help with that through regulatory mechanisms such as House Bill 25, which locks “large” customers, including the City of Missoula, into NorthWestern Energy’s customer base unless that customer opts out by October 1, 2007. Is the Legislature “reregulating” energy in Montana, and, if so, would its leaders consider spending some time with cities and other customers, large and small, to help us understand its intention?

Public utilities have a long record of success throughout the country. If the Legislature is interested in restoring a regulated monopoly electric utility in the state, would it consider supporting a public utility as much as a private, investor-owned operation?

Where and how can we purchase clean, green, affordable energy for our cities, homes and businesses? Research suggests that a majority of our electricity comes from old coal plants and some dams.

Thank you for your initial support in considering this option for Missoula. I hope you can support changing course and remaining open to other opportunities as they arise.

John Engen, Mayor

This is the right thing to do, Mayor Engen. People in Missoula, Great Falls and other Montana cities, for the most part, appreciate your re-thinking this plan. There’ll be some fallout (no pun intended) but Missoula’s energy issues shouldn’t be rushed. 4&20 will keep you posted.


  1. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    HOT DAMN! I knew good ol’ Mizoola would come through! Gave me quite a scare though. Mayor, I take back all those nasty things I said about you and sheep. Besides, it would have been humanly impossible to perform ALL those various and sundry acts with sheep anyway! Great news! I can’t WAIT to inform Jonny Lotten that one more group just opted out of Lotten’s Folly!

  2. noodly appendage

    The Bozeman City commission, tonight, declined to even have the subject put on a future agenda.

  1. 1 Pragmatic Revolt » Thursday (Friday) Blog a Round Week of Aug 19th

    […] 4 & 20 Blackbirds – Pete brings us an update on the Missoula Energy Debate […]

  2. 2 Because I Can Only Fit So Much Into One Post: DEQ Redux « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Two other environmental groups filed suit against the DEQ earlier this month (gee, isn’t it only the 14th!?), charging that and air quality permit issued for a coal-fired plant in Great Falls isn’t limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The plant is being developed by Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission. Pete did a previous post on this very plant here. […]

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