MEIC asks that you tell …
Senator Jacobson: Vote NO on SB 278 to Protect Montana Consumers!
Overpriced EnergyWe need you to contact Senator Tom Jacobson and tell him to vote no on SB 278. Tell him people in Great Falls don’t want to pay higher electricity bills to NorthWestern Energy! You can email him at Tom.Jacobson@mtleg.gov or call and leave a message for him Monday through Friday from 8-5 at (406) 444-4800.
SB 278 would eliminate the existing protections that the Montana Public Service Commission provides to NorthWestern Energy’s 350,000 Montana residential, small business, commercial and industrial customers, many of whom are in Great Falls. The bill would remove the PSC’s ability to prevent NorthWestern from overcharging its customers.
SB 278 is the most radical and audacious energy bill to be introduced in Montana’s legislature in decades. The PSC exists to regulate monopoly utilities and assure they don’t gouge electricity customers or unfairly charge them costs that the utility’s shareholders should pay. The Montana PSC relies on the same protective process as other utility commissions across the country. Utility commission scrutiny helps guarantee that monopoly utilities charge a fair price for electricity. Without that oversight, utility rates will go up. NorthWestern’s customers deserve and require the same protections as everyone else.
Specifically, SB 278 would force the PSC to approve any existing or increased costs requested by NorthWestern for:
Owning and operating its existing share in the Colstrip plant even if those costs are imprudent. This provision would tie the PSC’s hands and prevent it from protecting NorthWestern’s customers NOW – in NorthWestern’s current rate case before the Montana PSC and could potentially cost Montanans tens of millions of dollars on their power bills;
Any transmission costs associated with any additional Colstrip transmission interests regardless of the price tag;
Any increased ownership interest in the Colstrip plant, including remediation costs. Recently the Montana Department of Environmental Quality estimated that the costs of remediation at the plant could cost up to $700 million – another cost NorthWestern’s customers could be forced to pay under SB 278; and
The bill would also require the PSC to pass along the escalating operating, maintenance, capital expenditure and remediation costs at Colstrip to Northwestern’s customers without scrutiny or interference and allows NorthWestern to receive a profit margin on some of those costs, such as capital expenditures.
In 2013 NorthWestern sought to purchase the hydro system owned by PPL. In that process it valued PPL’s coal-fired generating assets at -$340 million, a huge liability, because of the continuing escalating costs of the aging plant. This bill would force Montanans to pay for NorthWestern’s identified negative value in the plant.
Call or e-mail Senator Tom Jacobson and tell him he must protect the pocketbooks and economic health of his constituents in Great Falls. You can email him at Tom.Jacobson@mtleg.gov or call and leave a message for him Monday through Friday from 8-5 at (406) 444-4800. Tell him to vote against SB 278!
SB 278 was opposed in the Senate Energy Hearing by the Montana Consumer Counsel, AARP, NW Energy Coalition, former PSC Commissioner Tom Schneider, Renewable Northwest, MEIC, Northern Plains Resource Council and others.
MEIC is a nonprofit grassroots environmental advocate for clean water and a healthy environment for all Montanans. It was founded in 1973 to protect and restore Montana’s natural environment.