BILLS WE SUPPORT
HB 34 – INCREASING NET METERING CAP FOR PUBLIC BUILDINGS – sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, would increase the net metering cap for government buildings to 250kW/hr. We support it because it would allow for government buildings to offset more of their energy, saving tax payers money. The House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations (ETFR) Committee held a hearing on Jan. 9. The House ETFR Committee voted to table the bill Feb 3.
HB 52 – GRANDFATHERING EXISTING CUSTOMER-GENERATOR NET METERING RATES – sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, would grandfather existing net metered customers (people with rooftop solar or small wind systems) at the current rate if any rate changes are made in the future. This bill is about fairness and consumer protection. The House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee held a hearing on Jan. 9. HB was tabled in Committee on Feb. 3.
HB 54: WATER RIGHTS DURING DROUGHTS – sponsored by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, would revise water right abandonment laws to account for drought plans. Currently, water rights are maintained under the premise of ‘use it or lose it.’ This bill would ensure that landowners would not lose their water rights due to drought. The House Natural Resources Committee has tabled the bill.
HB 215: REVISE OIL AND GAS TAX LAW – sponsored by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, would reform Montana’s Oil and Gas Tax Holiday, which only requires a 0.5% production tax on wells in their first 18 months of production (when most production occurs). Instead, HB 215 will require a 4.5% production tax during the first 18 months, which is still lower than our neighboring states of Wyoming and North Dakota. The House Taxation Committee held a hearing On Jan. 19. HB 215 was tabled in the House Taxation Committee on Jan. 31.
HB 219: REQUIRE A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF NET METERING – sponsored by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, would require a cost-benefit analysis of net metering to be conducted by the utility when net metering reaches 1% of total electricity sales, or sooner if the Public Service Commission (PSC) deems it necessary. This bill will protect current net-metered customers in the event that the Public Service Commission decides to establish a separate rate class for homeowners who have already installed rooftop solar systems. The House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations (ETFR) Committee held a hearing on Jan. 18. The House (ETFR) Committee voted to pass the bill to the House floor on Feb. 3. HB 219 passed 2nd reading in the House on Feb. 8 and is scheduled for 3rd reading on Feb. 9. HB 219 passed the house on Feb. 9, and the vote was 98 to 1.
HB 242: ESTABLISHING A NATURAL RESOURCES FUND – sponsored by Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, would establish a natural resources trust fund, which would be funded from taxes on coal severance and oil and gas production. This bill would add revenue from taxes on oil and gas production to the existing and successful coal tax trust fund, establishing sound fiscal policy that will create long-term benefits for the people of Montana off of finite resources. HB 242 was tabled in committee on Jan. 27.
HB 284: REVISE FUNDING FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT CENTERS – sponsored by Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, would appropriate additional revenue to the Montana Food and Agricultural Development Program, which serves a valuable and much needed investment into rural Ag communities throughout Montana. The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing On Jan. 24. HB 284 was tabled in committee on Jan. 31.
HB 296: STUDY ON MONTANA’S HAZARDOUS MATERIALS RESPONSE AND PREPAREDNESS – sponsored by Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman, will convene a task force study in order to determine the gaps that exist in Montana’s hazardous materials transportation response and preparedness. The bill intends to solve the inefficiencies – in funding and training – that exist for our first responders and address the safety issues in transporting oil by rail and other hazardous materials on our roads and railways. The House State Administration Committee held a hearing on Jan. 25. HB 296 was tabled on a party-line vote of 8-12 on February 3rd.
HB 322: CHANGE COLUMBUS DAY TO MONTANA HERITAGE DAY – sponsored by Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, would rename the Columbus Day Holiday as Montana Heritage Day. This change would better Reflect Montana’s history and honor our Native American population. The House State Administration Committee held a hearing on Feb. 8. HB 322 was tabled in committee on Feb. 10.
HB 322: ESTABLISH MONITORING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS – sponsored by Sen. Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman, would establish monitoring and reporting requirements for greenhouse gas emissions. This is a common sense step toward addressing the issue of climate change. The Senate Natural Resources committee will hold a hearing on Feb. 22.
HB 344: PROTECTION OF LANDOWNERS AFFECTED BY COAL BED METHANE – sponsored by Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, would appropriate money to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) to allow conservation districts to properly administer the coal bed methane protection program. This bill would fund the protection of landowners affected by coal bed methane development. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on Feb. 6. HB 344 was refered to the House Appropriations committee, which will hold a hearing on Feb. 21st
SB 11 – PSC REVIEW OF NET METERING INTERCONNECTION – sponsored by Sen. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton, , would require the Montana Public Service Commission to review and update safety and interconnection standards for net metering systems every two years. This will avoid a scenario in which the standards become so out-of-date that they will require significant alterations to get into compliance with state administrative rules. SB 11 passed the Senate on Jan. 26. The House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee held a hearing on Feb. 3.
BILLS WE OPPOSE
SB 7: GERNERALLY REVISE NET METERING – sponsored by Sen. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton, states that a net metering customer may not be subsidized by public utility customers who do not use net metering systems. The net metering customer does not receive a sum of money granted by the government or a public body, but merely receives credits for the electricity they produce but don’t use. The House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee held a hearing on Feb. 3. SB 7 has passed both the House and the Senate, and is now waiting to be signed or vetoed by the Governor.
SB 32: ELIMINATE COMMUNITY RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT REQUIREMENT – sponsored by Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kallispell, would eliminate the Community Renewable Energy Project (CREP) requirement from Montana’s Renewable Resource Standard (RRS). The CREP requirement within the RRS is not able to function as intended, but some relatively small changes will make it easier to qualify and are a good solution to the problems with the requirement, which is why we oppose the bill. SB 32 has passed the Senate and the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee held a hearing on the bill on Jan. 30. SB 32 has passed both the House and the Senate, and is now waiting to be signed or vetoed by the Governor.
SB 78: DISMANTLING NET METERING – sponsored by Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, would establish a new rate class for net metering customers and require a monthly service charge, effectively dismantling net metering. This unfair rate structure would only serve utilities’ monopolies and undercut clean energy producers. The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee held a hearing on Jan. 26. The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee passed SB 78 on an 8-5 party-line vote on Feb. 9. The Senate passed SB 78 29-20. Our citizen lobbyists were able to whip four additional votes in opposition to SB 78 on its 3rd reading vote on the Senate floor. The bill will now head to the House Energy, Telecommunications, and Federal Relations Committee.
SB 86: CREATE TAX INCENTIVES FOR OIL & GAS INDUSTRY – sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings, would reduce the tax trigger on incremental oil and gas wells. Oil and gas companies in Montana already enjoy very low tax rates, as well as a tax holiday for the first year of production. Oil and gas companies should have to pay their fair share to ensure that taxpayers don’t bear the burden of the impacts associated with oil and gas development in impacted communities. The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee held a hearing on Jan. 24. SB 86 passed committee on Feb. 3 and had a 2nd reading on Feb. 7. SB 86 passed the Senate on Feb. 8. The House Taxation committee will held a hearing on Feb. 15.
SB 93: LOWERING LANDOWNER NOTIFICATION OF DRILLING – sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings, would undermine Board of Oil and Gas Conservation rules requiring oil and gas operators to notify owners of homes and occupied buildings, such as offices, hospitals, and schools, within 1320 feet of a proposed oil or gas well. This bill would lower the minimum notification distance to 660 feet and remove notification for schools, hospitals, or other occupied buildings that are not private residences of drilling proposals. The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee held a hearing on Jan. 17. On Jan. 31, the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee amended SB 93, increasing the minimum notification to 990 feet, and passed the bill to the Senate floor. SB 93 passed second reading on Feb. 6 and there was a 3rd reading on Feb. 7. The Senate passed SB 93 on Feb. 7. SB 93 was heard in the House Energy, Telecommunications, and Federal Relations Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
SB 102: ESTABLISH A MAXIMUM LENGTH FOR QUALIFYING FACILITY CONTRACTS – sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings, would limit the maximum contract length for new wind and solar projects seeking to utilize the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA). This bill would severely reduce the amount of wind and solar development under PURPA. The Senate Energy and Telecommunications committee held a hearing on January 26 and passed the bill on Feb. 9. Unfortunately, SB 102 passed the Senate by a 25-24 vote and is awaiting scheduling for a hearing in the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee.
SB 154 – REPEAL NET METERING INCENTIVES – sponsored by Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta, would repeal the alternative energy production credit and make net metering systems ineligible for the alternative energy system credit. This would only increase general fund revenue by about $120,000 per year. (To put this in context, the oil and gas tax holiday resulted in $265 million in lost revenue for the state from 2008 to 2014.) The Legislature is again moving tax incentives for the oil and gas industry while repealing the meager incentives that exist for net metering. SB 154 passed the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee along a party line vote of 8-5.
SB 155 – PROHIBIT LOCAL REGULATION OF AGRICULTURAL SEEDS – sponsored by Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta, is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill that seeks to make it impossible for local governments to ban the use of GM seeds. This bill is brought to you by Monsanto. The Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee held a hearing on this bill on Feb. 9 and passed the bill to the House floor on Feb. 14.
SB 235: REVIVAL OF OTTER CREEK COAL LEASE – sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings, would allow coal leases on state lands to be extended. If this bill were to pass, the Otter Creek coal lease would never expire, and Arch Coal could try to breathe new life into the proposed Otter Creek Mine and Tongue River Railroad at any time. The Senate Natural Resources committee will hold a hearing in the next few weeks.
HB 339 – REVISE LASWS RELATED TO EXEMPT APPROPRIATIONS TO EXEMPT WELLS – sponsored by Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, would put a loophole into state law that allows the development of unregulated and unmonitored groundwater wells that pump less than 35 gallons per minute and produce less than 10 acre-feet of water a year. These wells could be used for new large-consumption water uses, such as subdivisions, without a permit. If passed, it would wreck the water rights system that has conserved and allocated precious water resources for more than a century in Montana. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on Feb. 1. The House Natural Resources Committee passed HB 339 on Feb. 8. HB 339 passed the House on Feb. 18, and is awaiting scheduling for a committee hearing in the Senate.
HB 363 – ESTABLISH RENEWABLE ENERGY PERMITTING, DECOMMISSIONING PROGRAMS – sponsored by Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, would require the owners of renewable energy systems to acquire a permit and pay a surety bond, giving the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) the ability to deny permits. This bill would make it more difficult and cumbersome for an individual to install a renewable energy system on their property. The House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee will held a hearing on Feb. 15. The Committee tabled the bill on Feb. 17.