Forward Montana Foundation’s Public Comment on NorthWestern Energy’s Procurement Plan

As a state-wide organization focused on empowering young Montanans, Forward Montana spends a lot of time thinking about how best to meet the challenges young people face in our state. Among the biggest challenges our generation increasingly has to contend with are climate change and economic stability. As we graduate high school and college and begin to build our lives, climate change is creating an increasingly chaotic backdrop. It is also becoming more difficult to access good-paying jobs and find affordable prices for housing and other basic necessities.

We recognize that providing reliable power to ratepayers is a challenging task as well. In moving forward, we urge you to seriously investigate a path forward that meets both the challenge of providing low-cost, reliable energy to customers and the challenge of rapidly scaling back our state’s dependence on fossil fuels in the next 10-12 years. We see the latter goal as an essential stepping stone for reaching the former.

Given the scientific consensus on climate change, the economic and social consequences detailed in the conclusions of the 2018 IPCC Special Report and the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and the likelihood of new state and federal regulation of greenhouse gases, it is very difficult to imagine that climate change will not have a significant effect on NorthWestern Energy’s ability to “provide adequate and reliable electricity supply service at the lowest long-term total cost,” as required by MCA 69-8-419.

We strongly urge you to look for creative paths forward that prioritize both the goal of providing low-cost energy to ratepayers and the goal of sourcing from new and existing renewable energy infrastructure in place of further investments in coal or natural gas. We hope you will rise to this challenge with creativity, foresight, and with full assessment of how other utilities have approached the challenge of meeting peak load in light of climate change.

After looking over your draft resource procurement plan, we have several bigger-picture questions we’d like to highlight:

  1. As a company, what is your position on addressing climate change? Would you be willing to make a public statement addressing the science of climate change?
  2. How do you plan to work with community groups and Montana cities, like Missoula, that are aiming to transition to 100% clean electricity in the next 10-20 years?
  3. Have you assessed other utilities’ approaches to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and setting target dates for reaching 100% clean energy?
  4. Have you done any analysis on the impact of climate-motivated legislation on existing and recent coal and natural gas resources? Have you assessed the likelihood that new natural gas plants would become stranded assets?
  5. Do you plan on reaching out to existing hydropower sources and existing storage facilities like Gordon Butte to meet any shortfalls in energy?
  6. The authors of the plan state that battery storage is cost prohibitive. Over what time horizon are you calculating this cost? What particular battery storage options have you considered? Have you considered the long-term cost of “bridging” with various existing resources while waiting for battery storage prices to further decline? How does the cost of purchasing battery storage technology at current prices compare with the long-term cost of Colstrip, including cleanup costs?
  7. What is your assessment of how much capacity new power plants will add to the regional energy supply?
  8. The term “cost” is used repeatedly in the plan but never explained. Please explain how you are calculating lowest cost: over what time horizon and for whom?
  9. When you conclude that “thermal resources provide the best value (lowest cost) to meet our customers’ future needs for peak capacity”  on page 1-12, are you considering the ecological cost of natural gas production or the social and ecological cost of greenhouse gas emissions? Have you done any assessment of the externalized costs of various resources?
  10. Why was Northwestern Energy looking to invest in a larger share of Colstrip this legislative session, and how does that align with the intention to supply energy at a low cost to ratepayers? How do efforts to pass SB 331 relate to this resource supply planning process?
  11. How do efforts to create a new customer class for rooftop solar customers relate to this resource supply planning process? How would this change impact NorthWestern Energy’s ability to meet peak load at lowest cost?

We have several more specific clarifying questions as well:

  1. When you conclude on page 1-13 that “[m]eeting our customers’ future needs by adding carbon free resources is projected to cost $523,000,000 more than meeting their needs using natural gas fired resources,” which specific projections are you referencing?
  2. In addressing the statutory requirements of the planning process (as indicated on page 2-1), have you:
    1. calculated the “long-term total cost” of various resource options, including projections of which assets might become stranded, potential cleanup costs, and externalized social and ecological costs?
    2. considered any new “demand side management options” to help reduce peak load? Which new options have you considered, if so?
    3. considered how climate impacts, like more severe wildfire seasons, might damage infrastructure like poles and wires, and how NorthWestern Energy might manage and mitigate those risks?
    4. considered the potential costs of procuring a large range of existing and new solar, in combination with and separate from battery storage, for the sake of evaluating the “full range of cost effective electricity supply… management options”?
  3. What is the reasoning for limiting resource additions to “about 200 mW per year” in the ARS analysis (pg 10-3)?
  4. When you state on page 10-14 that the “ARS analysis in this Plan generally selects natural gas fired thermal generation,” what exactly are you referring to? As the lowest cost option? Over what time horizon? With what constraints? As opposed to which alternatives, considered in which combination?
  5. On page 1-9 and 1-10, you state: “Another concern is that if no additional generation is built to justify keeping the current Colstrip transmission lines, those lines could also be retired…” How significant is this concern, and what are the options for keeping the transmission lines open?

Democracy Days 2019

From April 9th-11th, Forward Montana Foundation hosted the second annual statewide Democracy Days. Democracy Days are non-partisan voter registration events led and facilitated by high school student leaders. During Democracy Days, 12 schools across the state registered over 159 voters! From Great Falls to Stevensville to Shelby, these events empowered student leaders and their peers to make real, tangible change in their communities and high schools.

Terry Bradley, facilitated and organized Democracy Days this year, “Having the opportunity to work with student leaders across the state was inspiring and left me with a new hope for the future of civic engagement. Through trainings, students developed the tools and skills to empower their communities to advocate for change through voter registration. From hosting Democracy Days in school lobbies to local grocery store, these students registered 159 Montana voters! Living in a rural state such as Montana can prove to be difficult in mobilizing and engaging our communities within the democratic process. These students leaders have proven that change for the better can start by one person, simply by voting to do so”.

Across the state, these events helped both students and their peers engage in our democracy by registering to vote and learning more about election processes. We know that these are events are so critically important– the earlier young people can get exposed to a habit or behavior, the more likely they are to continue to engage in that behavior or habit into adulthood! The 159 high school students registered across Montana during Democracy Days are our next community leaders, elected officials, and changemakers. Watch out for them!

Student facilitators reported that their Democracy Days voter registration drives were overwhelmingly positive and well received in their schools.  Interested in helping us expand the reach of Democracy Days and empower even more young folks? Make a donation today so we can expand the Democracy Days program to even more high schools in 2020!

Are you a current high schooler looking to get involved in our program?! Applications are open for our second statewide High School Fellowship program happening this Fall in communities across the state. Apply for the Fellowship today!

Amara Reese-Hansell is FMF’s Bozeman Field Manager. In the office, Amara enjoys telling poorly delivered jokes to anyone who will listen and being inspired by the young people that walk through the doors of FMT everyday. Outside the office, Amara likes to drink wine and do her homework (sometimes at the same time). She graduated from MSU in 2018 with a degree in Political Science and Women/Gender Studies.

WTF is the NorthWestern Energy Procurement Plan and Rate Case, and what does it have to do with my utilities?

Young Montanans have a vision for our state’s energy future, and it looks pretty different that the vision our largest power company, NorthWestern Energy, is currently working towards.  We’re pulling towards a future where we double down to address climate change, build a stronger renewable energy economy, and also target some of economic inequities that hold the current status quo in place.  We want to see our elected officials, regulators, and energy decision makers act as catalysts to transition Montana to renewable energy. Solar and wind are now cheap energy sources. Battery storage technology is at scale, but time is running low to make the shift we need.

This spring, NorthWestern Energy has been making some pretty bold moves to fight Montana’s regulatory system, charge unjust rates, hinder solar development in Montana, and paint an energy future for Montana that prioritizes natural gas over renewables. Let’s be equally bold in pulling towards a different energy future for our state.

Here’s our plan to start shooting the gap:

At the legislature (April):

You may have heard a little about some of Northwestern Energy’s bills this legislative session, especially SB 331, sponsored by Senator Tom Richmond (and if not, check out our What the Helena updates, especially in this one on SB 199 and the precursor to SB 331, this other one about SB 331, and this last one about the PSC’s support for SB 331  to get up to speed! There’s another good article in the Montana Free Press about the Public Service Commission’s vote to support SB 331 against the advice of their staff).

SB 331, a.k.a. The “NorthWestern Energy Blank Check Bill” is a power grab  by NorthWestern Energy disguised as a helpful bill that would “save Colstrip.” Not only would the bill not save Colstrip, but it would instead allow company executives and shareholders to make a bigger profit off of Colstrip while passing the risk and the bill onto Montana’s ratepayers. It would put Montanans on the hook for Colstrip cleanup costs, give NorthWestern Energy a blank check for more investment in Colstrip, and it would override the regulatory system we have in Montana that keeps monopoly utilities like NorthWestern in check. Proponents, including NorthWestern Energy CEO Bob Rowe, are counting on Montanans to not read the fine print.

Action item: Make sure you call on your representatives to stop SB 331 at 444-4800 and call Governor Bullock to make sure he vetoes it!

The Resource Procurement Plan:

(Comment period open until May 5th)

Some of the bills NorthWestern Energy has brought to the legislature recently deal with questions that are already being discussed through normal regulatory processes. Although the legislative session is taking up a lot of bandwidth, it’s important to watch what happens on the regulatory front as well. Unfortunately, current Public Service Commissioners whose job it is to regulate utilities like NorthWestern Energy in the public interest have not been reliable in doing so. Until we can elect Public Service Commissioners who are knowledgeable about these issues and acting in good faith, Montanans need to intervene in some of these processes to make sure the outcomes move us towards a renewable energy future.

Every two years, NorthWestern Energy is required to create a 20-year plan for the future to guide decisions about what kinds of power plants to build, what kinds of investments to make, and where they expect to source their energy for the next twenty years. The company recently released their 2019 draft plan and is required to address all public comments in their final plan. Once approved by the PSC,  that final plan will guide their Request for Proposals and purchasing decisions.

Read Forward Montana Foundation’s response to the procurement plan here.

Previous iterations of NorthWestern Energy’s plans intend to invest $1 billion in new natural gas plants. This would lock Montana into decades of new emissions when we need to be getting creative, encouraging renewables, and helping mitigate the climate crisis that threatens our state’s vitality. We need to put on the pressure in order to make sure NorthWestern Energy is working towards a renewable energy future, not locking Montanans into a future dominated by natural gas.

Let’s not be Meredith Grey, we need to question & comment on NWE’s plan. Let’s start by sending comments, feedback, and questions to NorthWestern Energy about their current plan.  Make it clear that you want NorthWestern Energy to meet the challenge of supplying reliable energy with creativity, foresight, and an emphasis on investment in renewables paired with battery storage. What is the company’s plan to address climate change? How will they work alongside the growing movements for shifting to 100% clean energy in Montana? Most Montanans want to see more renewable energy development in Montana, but we need to hold NorthWestern Energy accountable to that vision.

Action item: You can submit a comment here. Consider copying your comment and also sending it along to the Public Service Commission.

The Rate Case:

(Comment period open until May 31st)

Northwestern Energy filed a rate case with the PSC in September 2018, for the first time in a decade. This is the normal proceeding that regulated utilities go through to update what they charge customers. (For more on the rate case process, check out this summary from our friends at MREA.) In order to stop changes in rates and regulations that would cause us to slide backwards, we need Montanans to add their voices to this process as well.

NorthWestern Energy’s proposed rate changes would hurt rooftop solar customers who are putting solar energy into the grid, as well as other aspects of Montana’s fledgling solar industry. Check out this article about the impact on rooftop solar, as well as MREA’s in-depth analysis of the proposed changes. NorthWestern Energy shouldn’t get away with passing on Colstrip cleanup costs to ratepayers rather than their shareholders. The company also needs to set aside community transition funding for Colstrip as the date of closure nears to support the workers and families impacted by the change.

Action item: You can comment on the rate case by sending a comment to the Public Service Commission by May 31st.

Caitlin Piserchia is FMF’s Conservation Outreach Fellow. Inside the office, she spends her time trying to wrap her head around Montana energy politics and strategizing on how to mitigate climate change/ show up for a just transition to renewable energy in Montana. Outside the office, Caitlin can be found in cold water, once the chance of freezing in said water drops below 10%.

Accountability Alert — HB510 Youth Election Judges

HB 510 would have lowered the age required to participate in elections as an election judge from 18 to 16. This bill would have allowed young people access into our elections and democracy sooner and more often — something we know increases not only turnout but helps young folks develop a sense of responsibility and power in our government. 

HB 510 failed its third reading in the house and it’s important we hold our legislators accountable. Decision-makers should be advocating for more accessible and equitable ways for young people to get involved in our democracy, not putting up barriers. Across Montana, poll worker positions are notoriously hard to fill. This bill would have helped Election Administrators and the communities they serve to fill those positions with tech-savvy & excited young people.

Legislators who flipped their “yes” vote to a “no” during the third reading in the House:

  • Rep. Fred Anderson
    • Primary ph: (406) 761-4042
    • Secondary ph: (406) 868-3815
    • Email:
  • Rep. Julie Dooling
    • Primary ph: (406) 471-4125
    • Email:
  • Rep. Ross Fitzgerald
    • Primary ph: (406) 788-1443
    • Secondary ph: (406) 467-2032
    • Email:
  • Rep. Mike Hopkins
    • Primary ph: (406) 531-1775
    • Email:
  • Rep. Llew Jones
    • Primary ph: (406) 271-3104
    • Secondary ph: (406) 289-0345
    • Email:
  • Rep. Ray Shaw
    • Primary ph: (406) 842-5039
      Secondary ph: (406) 596-5039

Note sure what to say? Don’t worry! We’ve got a script!

Hi this is ____ from ______. Is Rep. [Last Name] available?

Hi Rep. [Last name]. I’m calling to ask why you changed your vote on HB510 from a “YES” on second reading to a “NO” on third reading. As you know this bill would have allowed 16 year olds like me and my peers get involved in our election process as election judges.


I appreciate you for sharing your reasoning. Just so you know  Montana had the highest youth voter turnout increase from 2014 to 2018 in the country. I say that to show you that young Montanans want to engage as civic leaders and are showing up for Montana. I hope in the future our legislators, including yourself, will show up for them in the same way.

Thanks for your time & service.

We’d love to know why they decided to change their votes — please send anything you hear to Amara Reese-Hansell at

ACTION ALERT: HB 510 — 16 Year Old Election Judges

#DYK that Montana is one of only four states that don’t allow someone under 18 to serve as an election judge?

FMF high school leaders are working to change that by working with Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, the youngest legislator in Montana, to pass HB510. HB510 would allow 16-year-olds to serve as election judges. 

Learn more about HB510 by reading the bill here.

HB510 already passed out of committee and is now headed to the house floor! Next Step: contacting our representatives to ask them to vote YES on HB510. It’s super easy to contact your legislator.

  1. Look up your Representative on the legislative database and decide if you wanna call or email your Representative.
  2. No matter how you contact them, be sure to clearly state your name and your address and let them know that you’re a constituent in their district.
  3. After you’ve introduced yourself make sure to say clearly that you want them to vote YES on HB510 and state why. Need some help describing why? Use some of our talking points:

By lowering the age that Montanans can serve as election judges, the state demonstrates a sense of trust in young Montanans to safeguard the security of our election. We know that trust can engender a sense of power over our systems of governance.

Allowing 16 year old’s to participate as election judges creates paths for young people to become well-versed in elections rules and procedures. Recruiting younger poll workers benefits both youth voter turnout and long-term civic engagement.

Younger voters have a deep familiarity with the technologies used in the voting process. This familiarity and experience with complicated technologies is something that election officials would benefit greatly from and would ensure election day runs smoothly.

Across Montana, poll worker positions are notoriously hard to fill. This would identify an entire additional poll of election judges that are often needed to work the polls.

Nice work, pal! You’ve contacted your legislator — now help a friend contact their Representative about HB510!

Got questions? Contact Amara at

Lobbying for LGBTQ Empathy via Native ways

By Adrian Jawort

Having only recently come out as a gender fluid/Two Spirit publicly in early January via a well-received—if not controversial—article I’d written with the titled Native American ‘rednecks’ & colonized anti-LGBTQ conservatism via Indian Country Today, I was well aware of the inner turmoil and struggles transpeople face in Montana as it was something I’d personally grappled long and hard with most of teen and adult life. What I realized was the more I studied my Northern Cheyenne past, the more I came to realize that my being Two Spirit was just a natural part of me I needed to accept to live a full and healthy life. In fact, it was something to celebrated—not be ashamed of as the so-called Western Civilization thought process had long forced upon Native peoples.

As a semi-public activist, Native journalist, and author who’d long organized symposiums panels via the Native American Healing & Lecture Series in Billings, I knew when I came out it’d raise eyebrows. After Western Native Voice interviewed me about my Two Spirit experiences, they asked if I’d be interested in going to Helena to work with Forward Montana Foundation and other coalitions for “Equality in Montana Lobby Day” on Valentine’s Day—a fitting time of loving who you want to love while accepting who they are.

While in Billings, I’ve been a behind-the-scenes organizer and veteran journalist who’d covered various political stories for years. In Helena, I was a first time rookie lobbyist. We were briefed by various people that included the always energetic and indomitable—and fellow Two Spirit—Kelli Two Teeth. Some of the advice given was: Don’t feel like you’re impugning on a lawmaker’s time as they are there to represent your concerns. These laws really do affect you personally, and so don’t be afraid to let them know your personal story. But since time was always of the essence, brevity with potent talking points is key.

I, along with a Billings coalition of Michael Nelson, Patricia Decker, and transman activist Jay Raines, arrived at the capital just before noon, ready to let our voices be heard. After writing that aforementioned piece, numerous people had emailed and messaged me tales of discrimination regarding LGBTQ people, and so I felt obliged, ready, and honored to speak on our behalf. The week previous I’d been told the story of a transwoman who worked as a dishwasher who struggled to make ends meet. She often put her hair up in her baseball cap at work to disguise her femininity. When someone found out she was a transwoman and told her boss, she was immediately fired. Unable to make ends meet, she ended up living in her car. Finding a job is a hard task to do without an address and you have to explain you were fired because you’re trans—leaving yourself open to more possible scrutiny and it is why people remain in the closet, and why people don’t think such instances exist. This attitude toward LGBTQ and transpeople as somehow being “less than” is what I was fighting against. When I lobbied, I represented my Two Spirit identity while “en femme” mode in the state capital building on behalf of those who had to confine their true selves to the shadows.

Being from Billings, I’m well aware of the fact that my City Council had shot down an Non Discrimination Ordinance to protect LGBTQ people in 2014—the only major city in Montana to do so. We only wanted equal rights, not “special rights” as the naysayers of the NDO claimed—so went the basic logic of supporting the Montana Human Rights Act.

Some people claim bigotry trumps the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” of LGBTQ people. To them, we are deemed a political pawn in the ongoing culture wars instead of living, breathing, feeling human beings with families, loved ones, who suffer heartbreak and share hopes and dreams for a better life just like everyone else.  I also know that from an economic standpoint it simply doesn’t make sense to not pass the Montana Human Rights Act, so perhaps that could be a foot in the door to people who don’t want to see us as anything but “the other.”

And so this was my basic spiel:

As a person involved in arts in Billings, I know there’s a burgeoning yet underground scene we’re always seeking to expand in all mediums. However, the Billings city council voting down a NDO gave our city a huge black eye since the art community has always been a safe haven for LGBTQ people. When North Carolina signed their anti-LGBTQ so-called “bathroom bill” in 2016, it was noted by the Associated Press they lost an estimated $3.76 billion in revenues. Although Billings has no such figures, I can attest as someone involved in the literature community, we’ve lost a lot of money just based on seeing places like Missoula having massive popular book festivals people throughout the West flock to. While Billings is trying to get there with events like the High Plains Book Awards and other burgeoning events like film festivals, there’s always that stigma of Billings being anti-LGBTQ that that gives off an aura of unwelcoming prejudice despite the many beautifully-hearted people who reside here. This shadow will always keep potential investors leery in regards to things like the proposed One Big Sky District project that aims to make Billings a major metropolitan cultural hot spot. I told legislators to pass that knowledge onto people who may not be LGBTQ allies, per se, but claim to care about the economic growth and stability of Montana.

After lobbying I’d agreed to do a training session called “Creating Empathy via Native American Belief.” While I touched on the history of the ill treatment of Native LGBTQ people via colonization, I also explained how Two Spirit people were oft revered by most tribes. I told of my own coming out story, and how I had done it via writing because writing is where I feel safe with my truths. Although some in this world may judge me negatively for coming out as Two Spirit, art never does and always readily embraces what my soul yearns to tell.

The Crow’s traditional land consisted of present day Billings, a land they called the “cliff that has no pass” because of the landmark rim rocks—a place the famous visionary Chief Plenty Coup was born. Plenty Coup once said, “Education is your most powerful weapon. With education you are the white man’s equal; without education you are his victim.” I that I told of a highly respected Crow warrior named Finds Them And Kills Them who lived as a Badé (2-spirit) woman. Crow elders had said, “Badé were a respected social group among the Crow. They spent their time with the women or among themselves, setting up their tipis in a separate area of the village.”

After the Indian wars and during the late 1890s, an Indian agent tried to get Finds Them And Kills Them to live as a man, but she refused. The agent jailed the Badé, cut their hair, and forced them to do manual labor. The Crow protested the treatment of Finds Them And Kills Them and said this conversion therapy attempt was against their nature. The late Crow historian Joe Medicine Crow said, “The people were so upset with this that Chief Pretty Eagle came into Crow agency and told the agent to leave the reservation. It was a tragedy, trying to change them.”

It was such a foreign concept to Natives to force people to go against their gender nature they were ready to revolt on their behalf. “Why would anyone force someone to act like the gender they are not? To what point?!”

And that was difference between “Western” white and Native civilizations. That is the way the people had lived on this beautiful land called Montana for thousands of years. Those are lessons of empathy and solidarity of standing up and caring for one another that must be brought back to this area, this land I love enough to keep fighting for along with all of the other beautiful LGBTQ and Two Spirit people and allies I joined that day.

Nea’ese, (Thank you).

Hot Takes: Women’s Policy Leadership Institute

The other weekend, four Forward Montana Foundation staffers attended Montana Women Vote‘s Women’s Policy Leadership Institute in Helena–and we learned A LOT that we can’t wait to take back to our own organizing.

Here are our hot takes from the weekend:

1. As a result of Medicaid expansion, 7,643 women received breast cancer screenings, with 107 diagnosed as a result. (Sarah)

2. 42% more people received mental health care services as a result of Medicaid expansion. (Sarah)

3. Medicaid expansion strengthens rural health care and allows Native Americans to choose where to access health care. (Sarah)

4. 2/3 of of people in our jails are there for nonviolent offenses and the main reason our jails are populated are through the bail industry, i.e. TONS of people sitting in jail without conviction. This matters because when someone sits in jail for 48-72+ hours, they are 47% more likely to commit a crime again and end up back in jail BECAUSE being in jail for 48+ hours means they are likely losing their jobs, losing custody of their kids, etc. (Erin)

5. A majority of the reason why people go in and out of our jails is because they get caught in what’s called a ‘debters’ prison’ where they are unable to pay the multitude of court fees and fines, plus driver’s license suspension fees. (Erin)

6. When elections come around, it’s important to elect a Justice of the Peace that knows their job is to keep people out of jail! Also, that HB 217 should pass because it would eliminate fees from driver’s license suspension. (Erin)

7. Food sovereignty and food issues intersect with every aspect of our daily lives and political surroundings! I LOVED hearing Rose Bear Don’t Walk from the University of Montana talk about the work she’s doing to revitalize and educate about Salish food traditions. We talked about ways we can own and affect our food systems at local, state and national levels and brainstormed ideas, from reducing food waste in our own homes to campaigning for more diversity in setting national nutrition standards. (Margaret)

8. Food sovereignty issues and language revitalization are completely entwined in indigenous communities. Preserving language also preserves a community’s connection to the landscape and centuries of indigenous knowledge about the natural world and food! (Margaret)

9. EDIBLE PLANTS Y’ALL. Catch me in the mountains this spring searching for wild onions. (Margaret)

Hustle on over to our friends at Montana Women Vote’s website to learn more about WPLI and some of the dope legislative & voter engagement work they are doing this session!

FMF’s Public Statement on NorthWestern Energy’s Resource Procurement Plan

On Friday, January 19th, the Montana Senate & House Energy Committees hosted the Public Service Commission and held a public hearing on Northwestern Energy’s 20-year procurement plan. You can listen to the full meeting here.

House and Senate Energy Committee members, Public Service Commissioners, and Northwestern Energy representatives:

My name is Caitlin Piserchia, and I’m here on behalf of Forward Montana where I work as the conservation outreach fellow. We’re a statewide organization that builds power with and for young Montanans. I’m also a Northwestern Energy customer, as are most of our staff, members, & volunteers.

When we register voters, most of them young Montanans, we ask folks what issues are important to them. Conservation and economic justice are issues that consistently rise to the top — and these two issues reflect the vision we have for the next two decades for the Northwestern Energy’s resource procurement plan.

Young Montanans are facing an uncertain future. We have more student debt than any generation before us and we are graduating high school and college to find fewer and fewer good-paying jobs. We are entering the workforce in a state that continues to stake its future on an energy mix that includes dirty energy sources subject to boom and bust cycles, energy sources that much of our country is rapidly moving away from.

We also know that our changing climate will affect our generation and generations to follow in a way we haven’t seen before. Chaotic shifts in climate also undermine important industries that all Montanans depend on in our state, like agriculture and recreation. Continuing down our current path as a state and country is like playing Russian roulette with the ecosystems that sustain our communities, and we know that we’ll be living with the consequences in the prime of our lives.

With this in mind, we want to see NWE, the PSC, and our state legislators work towards a stable, vibrant future for our generation and those that follow.. This means supporting industries that bring good, sustained jobs to rural places. This means investing in clean energy sources that strengthen our state and make our communities more resilient. Northwestern Energy’s wind projects are currently the cheapest energy source for ratepayers. And across the country, wind projects have been seen to strengthen rural communities by providing much needed tax income. We know this has panned out in Montana; a report from the Montana Department of Commerce last January found that Montana wind farms contributed approximately $66 million in total property taxes from 2006-2017. That $66 millon means more money to repair roads and local infrastructure.

Further, the US Department of Labor reports that wind and solar jobs are the fastest growing jobs in the country — and even better, these are jobs that are insulated from the boom & bust cycles of other energy sources.

It’s abundantly clear that investment in renewable energy is the best solution for ratepayers, for my generation, and for rural communities across Montana.

In the 2019 plan, NorthWestern needs to protect its customers by modeling a scenario where the Colstrip power plant closes by 2027 or earlier, in line with the closure date that other Colstrip owners are planning for. The plan should also model the cost of replacing Colstrip with clean energy and and consider multiple options for meeting future energy needs with clean, renewable energy.

As an organization, we strongly urge Northwestern Energy to stop pursuing costly, risky, and dirty energy sources at the expense of ratepayers when we could find a solution that works for all of us. Instead, invest in the future of our state for Montana’s ratepayers, workers, and for my generation, so we are not burdened down the line by shuttered industries, expensive energy rates, and dirty, antiquated energy sources that make our state more volatile.

We ask all the decision makers present today to help shepherd in a renewable version of Montana’s energy future. And we would love to help build it.

Thank you very much for your time.

Public Lands Rally reminds legislators not to duck out on public lands

By Caitlin Piserchia, Conservation Outreach Fellow

For the third legislative session in a row, the Public Lands Rally stormed the Capitol building to remind legislators that protecting public lands is part of what it means to be a Montanan.

Over a thousand Montanans from across the state filled the Capitol rotunda on Friday, January 11th to send a clear message that Montanans will not allow the legislature to sell off our public lands to private interests. Throughout the event, the rallying cry “keep public lands in public hands” rang out through the halls of the capitol. Along with star speakers Ryan Busse, Maggie Carr, and Shane Doyle, Governor Steve Bullock and Senator Tester both made cameos to support the effort. And a number of Forward Montana staff (including QUACK 1 & 2) joined the crowd to make sure legislators “don’t duck out” on young Montanans.

The broad coalition organizing the rally aims to stave off threats to public lands at the state and federal level, and the lineup of speakers amplified these aims. Jon Tester voiced his frustration over Congress’s failure to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has long redirected offshore oil royalties towards protecting public lands. Ryan Busse, board chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said that public lands are “the manifestation of democracy,” reminding the crowd how important equal access to public lands is; “this land is one of the few places that every man, woman, and child is equal when they set foot on that land.” Maggie Carr, an outfitter in the Bob Marshall, talked about the threats to her livelihood. Educator and Apsaalooké (Crow) nation member Dr. Shane Doyle opened with a Northern Cheyenne honor song and reminded the crowd of the history behind Montana’s public lands, which have been homelands and sacred places to Montana tribes for centuries. He talked about the importance of the Crazy Mountains to the Northern Cheyenne and told the story of Chief Plenty Coups, who, despite seeing much of his treaty land stolen by the state, chose to dedicated his last piece of property to the public domain. Governor Bullock closed with the promise that Montana’s public lands will not be sold off on his watch, and reprimanded Congress for the continued government shutdown: “our parks and our public servants are not bargaining chips for policies.”

The crowd, representing a broad swath of Montanans, apparently sent a strong enough message to be heard in Washington. Last week, with a nod to backlash around the country,  Representative Jason Chaffetz from Utah decided to withdraw H.R. 621, a bill that would have sold off over 3.3 million acres of public lands around the country, including some protected lands in Montana.

On the home front, we know we still need to be vigilant. Despite one thousand Montanans showing up in Helena, and despite over 400 additional pledges to protect public lands collected before the rally, we know state legislators continue to introduce bad bills on public lands. As the legislative session continues, eight Montana organizations– from Forward Montana, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and six others– recently published an op-ed in the Montana Standard to remind legislators we’re not going to back down:

“A message to Sen. Thomas, Sen. Fielder and other elected officials who are trying to eliminate our public lands and waters:

Anglers, hikers, skiers, campers, hunters, kayakers and other Montanans who enjoy the outdoors have united to ensure that America’s legacy of public lands will stay public. We remain united and vigilant. And we will continue fighting any attempts to take public lands out of our hands.”

Read the joint follow-up op-ed by the rally organizing committee in the Montana Standard here!

And for updates on whether or not our elected officials are protecting our public lands: follow @dontduckmt on Instagram!

Your gift matters to Kiah.

Dear friend,

Your gift matters to Kiah. 

Kiah started with Forward Montana Foundation as a Bozeman Field Organizer in 2013, and then stepped up her game as  our Eastern Montana Program Director. She uses the skills she learned those years in her current position as Deputy Director, now just while also overseeing dozens of staff with enthusiasm and grace.

When asked about why the youth vote matters, Kiah says, “The system is set up to be complicated & burdensome — so complicated & burdensome that it prevents us from showing up and making our voices and our values heard. 

“In the face of these barriers, Forward Montana Foundation plays the crucial role of navigator and interpreter for new and young voters, ensuring that they can prevail in making their voices heard at the ballot box, in the capital, and in the streets.”

Together, we mobilized thousands of young voters during the midterm election.  With your help:

  • Kiah, along with dozens of other staff and volunteers, registered over 7,791 voters and made over 79,477 calls and texts to remind young voters to get out to the polls.
  • We expanded our “Underage Democracy” high school programming to 11 new high school classrooms, from Missoula to Havre, tackling barriers to participation earlier than any other civic organization.
  • We’re transforming youth culture around voting in Montana. We’ve developed important partnerships with Patagonia and Logjam Presents, making voting as cool as scaling a mountain or attending a killer concert.
  • We led the charge on key Election Protection work, including moving a polling location back to MSU’s campus, and saw staggering record turnout that changed the course of this election.

We’re excited to keep the momentum going straight into the Montana legislative session and beyond to 2020. We’re investing in our leaders and ensuring that they have the tools they need to make real change, and to do that we need to have $12,2560 in the bank for our 2019 internships before the session starts on January 7th.

Can we count on you to help give the next generations of “Kiahs” an opportunity to grow?

With thanks,

Jeremy Osborn

Forward Montana Foundation Board Chair

P.S. We know that strong grassroots movements are grown from grassroots dollars. From now until December 31st, each contribution will be matched dollar for dollar by the Kendeda Foundation.