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NorthWestern halts plans for MSTI

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By Emily Stifler Managing Editor

SIOUX FALLS – Plans for the controversial 500-kilovolt Mountain States Transmission Intertie transmission line proposed by NorthWestern Energy have been slashed.

The Bonneville Power Administration announced in early October that it ranked other options ahead of the MSTI project to serve BPA’s southern Idaho loads. The proposed line would have run from Townshend, Mont., through southwest Montana, and over to a substation near Jerome, Idaho.

The utility may write off all, or a significant portion of preliminary survey and investigative costs totaling approximately $24 million associated with the MSTI transmission project. Continued market uncertainty and permitting issues also contributed to this decision, according to a press release.

NorthWestern Energy President and CEO Bob Roe told Yellowstone Public Radio reporter Edward O’Brian, and that its shareholders will “eat” that $24 million.

“…we felt the right thing to do, both in terms of managing the costs and in being very clear about our disclosures, was take the write down now,” Roe said.

Treated as an expense, the $24 million “just goes away,” said NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch. “[It was] spent in anticipation there would a project, and that they would then be able to earn a return on that investment.”

That doesn’t mean another similar project would be out of consideration.

“There certainly is a strong view that additional transmission is needed interconnecting Montana with other parts of the West,” Roe said in the interview. “A MSTI-like project certainly could at some point in the future make sense.”

NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas to approximately 668,300 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The company has 5,000 miles of electric transmission line in Montana.

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