The bill has been misrepresented as having to do with “Qualifying Facilities” or a “symmetry” issue at the Public Service Commission (PSC). This is grossly wrong.
SB 199 is another attack on Montana utility customers. Its goal is to increase utility company profits by removing PSC oversight of utility expenses.
Sb 199 prohibits the PSC from changing the depreciation schedule for any existing or future NorthWestern power plant. This could force utility customers to keep paying for a power plant that hasn’t been running for 20 years. Utility executives would be making money off that plant that whole time while customers received no energy.
SB 199 is also completely open ended for what else it applies to. The bill uses an “includes but is not limited to” clause to define the costs the PSC would lose oversight over, meaning it could apply to just about anything.
The costs SB 199 does list are vague, such as “equipment used to generate electricity,” which could also be just about anything. The bill’s sponsor could not define its boundaries when asked about it on the senate floor.
Utility customers are captive customers – they can’t go anywhere else. The PSC’s primary purpose is to prevent for-profit, monopoly utilities from abusing their monopoly power.
SB 199 prevents the PSC from doing its job of protecting consumers.
Passed the Senate Energy Committee on an 8-5 vote. Passed the Senate Floor on a 31-19 vote. Awaits a vote in the House Federal Relations, Energy, and Technology Committee.