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Shooting utility power poles is dangerous, illegal

Jul 01, 2019

Helena, Mont. - Over the course of the last six months the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office has received several reports of individuals damaging NorthWestern Energy power polls in the Bureau of Land Management North Hills recreational area. The damage is a result of individuals shooting the power polls with various caliber firearms. Some wood poles have been shot completely through and the steel poles are also targets.

This spring NorthWestern Energy crews were onsite rebuilding the line with steel poles. The bottom half of the poles were installed when weather shut down the job for a couple of weeks. When the crews returned, the bottom of the poles had bullet holes in them.

More recently a vandal was shooting at poles when a NorthWestern Energy crew was in the area.

 “We put up a sign asking gun users to aim away from utility poles and equipment and that sign was shot by vandals in just a few days,” said Joe Havens, NorthWestern Energy Senior Engineer. “These vandals are creating a risk for our customers and our crews. This is a real threat to service reliability and to the safety of our personnel.”

“The Bureau of Land Management North Hills is a well-known area to target shoot and/or practice with firearms,” said Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton. “The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office respects the values of this hobby and of those participating. 

“However, shooting power polls is extremely dangerous, due to ricochet, decreasing the integrity of the poll, and the potential for downed power lines. It has also become costly for the Helena area community and we ask that anyone who is participating in this act to desist.”

Transmission poles cost almost $4,000 each and the labor and equipment to install each pole costs from $5,000 to $6,000. Those avoidable costs divert funds away from other projects and in the end, cost all of us more money on our utility bills.

Individuals caught shooting power polls will be charged and prosecuted under Montana Code Annotated 45-6-101 and if convicted can be fined an amount not to exceed $50,000 or be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 10 years, or both.

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About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)
NorthWestern provides electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 726,400 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. We have generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and have generated and distributed electricity and distributed natural gas in Montana since 2002. More information on NorthWestern is available on the company’s website at

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