HB 99, by Representative Denise Hayman (D-Bozeman), would eliminate utility pre-approval. Currently, unlike most utilities, NorthWestern can request the Montana Public Service Commission approve its purchase of a generating resource (such as it did with the hydroelectric system or gas plants) and pass all of the costs and risks on to customers instead of allowing the shareholders to bear the initial risk. It is fairly unique in the utility arena to allow a company to request pre-approval of electricity-generating resources before the utility pays for them. This creates a disincentive for the utility to do its due diligence on whether a generating resource is a sound investment. Instead, the utility can shift its due diligence burden to the PSC who has a short timeframe and insufficient resources. Pre-approval only benefits the utility at the expense of utility customers who will have to pick up the tab for a potentially uneconomic investment.
A hearing was held on Fe. 3 in the House Energy, Telecommunications, and Federal Relations Committee. The bill has been tabled.
Anne Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org