Governor Brian Schweitzer this week announced that TransCanada's proposed NorthernLights Transmission project is moving forward with detailed siting and permitting activities for the portion of its high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will be located in Montana. The company estimates the project will cost about $2 billion total, with an estimated value of over $600 million in Montana. The governor was also joined by International-Secretary Treasurer Jon F. Walters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) as well as numerous union members.

"The NorthernLights project will help the economy by stimulating new energy production in Montana, helping us stabilize energy costs and diversifying our energy supplies," said Schweitzer. "This transmission project - combined with power from wind generation and new clean coal power projects coming on-line, will be a huge boost to the economy of the state and will help with future power costs to Montanans."

The NorthernLights HVDC line will originate in Montana, and then move through Idaho to Las Vegas eventually supplying much needed energy to the Southwest. The DC line is a dedicated point-to-point line where the power only enters the regular power grid at limited "on and off ramps." Up to five such ramps are planned for the entire line. The company estimates the project will cost about $2 billion total, with an estimated value of over $600 million in Montana.

Governor Schweitzer signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding with Governor James Risch of Idaho and Governor Kenny Guinn of Nevada for the purposes of coordinating the siting and permitting of the NorthernLights transmission project in the three states.

In a letter to Governor Schweitzer, TransCanada President of Energy Alex Pourbaix said that "TransCanada appreciates the leadership and enthusiasm you have shown with respect to this important infrastructure development. The fact that you and the Governors of Idaho and Nevada have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate the siting and permitting of the project is a significant and important milestone."

The governor noted that the NorthernLights project had recently begun permitting with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for crossing federal land. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will be the lead agency for the state permitting activities. A state government "working group" representing several state agencies has begun meeting to help facilitate the permitting effort.