Federal delays may force NorthWestern to abandon transmission project


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: We don't object to the feds saying "No" to a project if it's not right. But we do object to them taking four years and charging $14 million to say "well... maybe... we'll see." - By Jesse Berst


In the face of constant federal delays, South Dakota-based NorthWestern Energy has thrown up its hands and asked several government agencies to stop analyzing a proposed $1 billion, 430-mile transmission line from Montana to Idaho. The understandably frustrated company has spent more than $23 million over the past four years, $14 million which went to the government for studies. "We've called a timeout," NorthWestern spokesperson Claudia Rapkoch told the Montana Standard. "It's really because of a lack of cooperation with multiple federal agencies. We've been going along for years and counting delay after delay and are getting no closer."


In recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it was evaluating whether to continue. The latest roadblock came from the Bureau of Land Management. The agency ordered NorthWestern to propose alternative routes through southeastern Idaho to avoid sage grouse habitat. The requirement could add further delays and another 160 miles to the project. "We are funding these agencies and we're not getting a real sense of when this might get completed," Rapkoch said.