SB 84 by Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) is another anti-consumer bill that would make it much more difficult for the Montana Consumer Counsel to protect Montanans from unsavory utility owners who want to overcharge customers. The Montana Consumer Counsel is the only entity constitutionally charged with protecting consumers (i.e., NorthWestern Energy customers) from monopoly utilities in proceedings before the Montana Public Service Commission. The Consumer Counsel is a very small office that hires experts and consultants to help review utility filings and argue for consumer protections before the PSC on a wide range of issues including electricity, gas, solid waste, water supply, and more. SB 84 would remove ethical conflicts for legislators and allow them to vote on whether the Consumer Counsel could hire experts and contractors in its quest to represent consumers before the PSC. This punitive bill makes it harder for the Consumer Counsel to remain politically independent and is likely retribution for the Counsel arguing that NorthWestern shouldn’t be allowed to overcharge its customers for the high costs of breakdowns at the Colstrip plant.
SB 84 was approved by the full Senate and has moved to the House.
Anne Hedges, email@example.com