While Matthew Frank’s excellent article “Lost in transmission” (Aug. 11, 2011) exposes the dubious economics presented by corporations like NorthWestern Energy in their headlong pursuit of industrial scale merchant transmission lines like the Mountain States Transmission Intertie, it is only the tip of the iceberg.
It is most important to mention that MSTI and the Montana Alberta Tie Line, or MATL, will contain token wind energy but will primarily be transporting coal energy to urban centers outside of Montana. As it is both economically and physically impossible to transport 100-percent wind energy 1,500 miles, lines like MSTI will be “shored up” with, you guessed it, coal. Can any progressive or environmentalist in good conscience believe that a 1,500-mile 500 kV line with 150-foot towers strung four to six per mile carrying coal energy across this great continent can be considered green? None of this is to mention the scar these lines will leave on our rural landscape and the damage they will pose to Montanans’ livelihoods, health and way of life.
NorthWestern Energy and Tonbridge Power, with the help of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, have been successful in portraying MSTI and MATL, respectively, as green and that Montanans have a noble burden of providing places like Las Vegas with Montana wind energy. They are selling us down river.
When a Montana judge correctly ruled that a corporation (and a foreign one no less) did not have the right of eminent domain in condemning private property for the construction of MATL, the energy companies went crying to Helena. In the shit show that was Montana’s last legislative session, supporters of these lines introduced HB 198, which gives corporations the power to take private property. When supporters of the controversial bill realized they didn’t have the backing in committee to pass HB 198, they blasted the bill back to the Senate for an up or down vote. It narrowly passed.
Curiously absent was Schweitzer’s veto branding iron. Though the bill passed without his signature, Schweitzer, deft politician that he is, worked behind the scenes urging senators to support the bill while maintaining a skeptical public face. Now, under the guise of green energy and jobs, corporations can take your land for their own profit. If this sounds wrong to you, it is. This is bad politics, it is an affront to our rights as citizens, and it is a continuation of status-quo, corporate-driven, inefficient energy policy. I urge you to go to www.votefor 125.com and sign the petition to repeal HB 198 and give the people a voice in this issue, which affects you, your fellow Montanans, and our shared environment.