Attempted overturn of Montana nuclear power law fails

January 10, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News

A Montana citizens group has failed in its effort to repeal H.B. 273, a recently enacted law that transfers the power to authorize the construction of nuclear power facilities in the state from the public, via referendum, to the legislature. H.B. 273 was signed by Montana governor Greg Gianforte last year, overturning the Montana Empowering Voters to Approve Proposed Nuclear Facilities Initiative, which had been on the books since 1978.

According to a January 4 report in the Helena Independent Record, Carole Mackin, a representative of the People’s Power League (the organization behind the 1978 law), was unable to gather a sufficient number of signatures for a ballot initiative that would have given Montana voters the opportunity to repeal H.B. 273 in this year’s November election. Macklin had filed the initiative with the secretary of state’s office last May, just weeks after Gianforte’s signing of the law, and had been given the go-ahead in September to collect signatures. In the end, Mackin fell short of the nearly 35,000 signatures needed to get the referendum on the ballot. She plans, however, “to focus on making nuclear reactors an election talking point,” the newspaper stated.

In case you missed it: Last April, the Montana House approved a joint resolution—sponsored by Sen. Terry Gauthier (R., Helena)—calling for the creation of a legislative panel to study the feasibility of replacing the coal-fired units at the state’s Colstrip power plant with small modular reactors. (Two of Colstrip’s four coal boilers were permanently closed in January 2020, and most energy-sector observers expect the remaining two units to be retired within the next few years.) The resolution was unanimously passed by the Senate on February 17 and cleared the House 78–30 on April 21. The following week, the resolution was filed with the Montana secretary of state. (Joint resolutions do not require the governor’s signature.) The panel’s coal-to-nuclear study needs to be concluded by September 15, 2022.

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