Missoula ratepayers will get day in court over utility pre-approval

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A district court judge has ruled that three Missoula residents and climate advocacy group 350Montana can proceed with their challenge to a 2003 state law that guarantees NorthWestern Energy can recoup costs from planned power-producing assets.

Eliza Wiley, Montana Free Press AMANDA EGGERT Montana Free Press

A district court judge has ruled that three Missoula residents and climate advocacy group 350Montana can proceed with their challenge to a 2003 state law that guarantees NorthWestern Energy can recoup costs from planned power-producing assets.

Missoula District Court Judge Jason Marks ruled this week that a lawsuit challenging the state’s preapproval statute can proceed. In his order, Marks denied NorthWestern Energy’s motion, which it filed with support from Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and the Montana Public Service Commission, to dismiss the lawsuit.

At issue is the constitutionality of the state’s preapproval statute, which allows a utility company to pursue PSC approval of power-generating resources before the company has purchased or begun constructing them. Opponents of the statute say it insulates utility companies from

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