For the third time, a group of Montanans is working on a ballot initiative that would require that 80% of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2034.
MTCARES, the nonprofit behind Initiative 187, has filed with the Secretary of State for the 2020 election and has collected about 30% of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, said Russ Doty, a former Democratic state legislator and the initiative’s author. The group has until June 19 to gather the remaining signatures.
Initiative 187 aims to revise energy and tax laws to tackle climate change.
It would require NorthWestern Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities — the state’s privately owned utility companies — to increase their production of renewable energy gradually until it reaches 80% by Dec. 31, 2034. Utility companies would be prohibited from raising rates by more than 2% annually to achieve the target. Electric cooperatives could vote on whether to adopt these renewable energy standards.
Initiative 187 would also provide money to retrain workers, support apprenticeships, ensure coal and natural gas workers receive pensions and unemployment benefits and assist coal-reliant towns by replacing the state’s coal taxes with a tax on each kilowatt-hour of energy produced. Doty said the new tax would not increase taxes but would replace the loss in revenue from coal taxes as utilities stop producing coal.
The new law would enable homeowners to generate 100 kilowatts of power and government agencies, schools, churches and nonprofits to generate 250 kilowatts of power. NorthWestern Energy customers can now produce a maximum of 50 kilowatts. Neighborhood renewable energy facilities and aggregate net metering would also be allowed.
“I saw people with bumper stickers that said, ‘Honk if you believe in climate change,’” Doty said. “I thought we could do more, and as a former state representative and lawyer who’s worked in energy and consumer protection, I could do more by drafting this initiative.”
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