Westmoreland Coal Company announces bankruptcy approval

Westmoreland Coal Company announces bankruptcy approval

UPDATE (04/13/19 1:01 PM) - Montana Governor Steve Bullock released a statement Saturday on the Medicaid expansion bill Saturday, urging lawmakers to, "stop playing politics."

"Governing is not a game. I join Montanans across the state in reminding the handful of Republican Senators, who are playing Russian roulette with the healthcare of nearly 10% of Montana's population, that they are voting on people's lives," said Bullock. "There is still time to do the right thing and get this done - for our neighbors, for our communities and for our economy. But the time for games is over." 

Depending on the passage of the bill, as many as over 96,000 Montanans could potentially have their Medicaid health coverage discontinued in late June, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. 

UPDATE (04/13/19 11:15 AM) - Lawmakers in the state Senate voted 24-to-26 Saturday on placing the Medicaid expansion bill on its second reading, resulting in a failed motion. 

Meanwhile, bill SB 331, or the "Establish the Montana energy security act," is making progress as it concurred Saturday in the House as amended. Lawmakers have scheduled the bill for a second reading on Monday.

HELENA - The Medicaid bill isn't dead yet. It could be brought back to the senate floor as soon as tomorrow.  The senators who voted "no" spoke out Thursday; saying their vote could change if the senate passes a bill to save the Colstrip power plant.

The bill gives Northwestern Energy approval to sidestep the state's regulating body, the Public Service Commission, and spend $75 million to renovate the Colstrip power plant. 

Supporters say the plan will save hundreds of jobs in Colstrip and could prevent Northwestern from having to build a new plant from the ground up.

Opponents worry the money will ultimately fall on rate payers' shoulders and that allowing Northwestern to sidestep the PSC sets a dangerous precedent.

Public Service Commissioner Dist.1 Randall Pinocci told us, “The bill says that they have $75 million that they can transfer to the rate payer over the next ten years.

Now if that scares the public, let me tell you that if you were to build a 150 mega watt power company it would cost over 300 million.”

Montana state senator Dick Barrett (d) also told us, “The expenditures that Northwestern makes it ultimately passes on to the consumers, and there rates should be subject to oversight by the public service commission.”

To put it simply some say a no vote pushes for the money to be reviewed and guarded to protect the tax payer from higher rates. While others say a yes vote could save money for the long run.

Voting on the Colstrip bill can happen either Friday or Saturday.

Depending on the outcome of that vote, we could see a vote on Medicaid as early as Saturday as well.

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