NorthWestern Energy requires a rezoning for one of the three joined parcels to complete construction of a Laurel methane-fired power plant. NWE applied for and then withdrew its zoning application last year amid confusion over zoning jurisdiction. While those seriously concerned about the construction of this plant await NWE’s resubmission of a rezoning application, many are frustrated with the demonstrated lack of transparency and communication regarding the decision-making.
Residents of Yellowstone County have the right to know which elected government body will make the decisions that will move the construction of the power plant forward. The City of Laurel points the finger at the Yellowstone County Commission. Yellowstone County Commissioners and the County Attorney are refusing to respond to my requests and those of Laurel City Attorney Michelle Braukmann for information on zoning jurisdiction.
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The proposed plant is in the Offshore Zone less than one mile from the Laurel City limits. Since the county has not expressed an intention to zone in this area, it appears that the jurisdiction lies with the city of Laurel. And yet the Laurel City attorney says Laurel’s hands are tied without clarification from the Yellowstone County prosecutor who received five separate requests from the citizens and the Laurel City attorney to specifically cite the legal document that covers the situation.
In this “hot potato” game, it is the health, safety and prosperity of county residents that are at stake. I call on Yellowstone County to produce the legal clarification of jurisdiction in this matter.