My LTE against Senate Bill 379 was ready to send this morning (March 26) when I opened the paper to find the Chronicle’s excellent editorial against the “stick-it-to-the-ratepayers” bill. Thank
you for taking the words right out of my mouth. There are just a few more things about this “worst-of-the worst” bills left for me to reiterate.
We who get Northwestern Energy bills are captive customers of a private electricity monopoly. In 1913 Montana established the independent Public Service Commission to review and approve all rate hikes in order to ensure that we, the captive rate payers, are not being price-gouged or left holding the bag for a private company’s poor business decisions. Without PSC oversight — which is what SB 379 would get rid of — we ratepayers will be responsible for all costs NWE incurs, whatever that corporation says they are. SB 379 would reverse a century of utility law that is intended to shield consumers and require a process for evidence-based oversight and rate setting.
SB 379 has been touted as a “Save Colstrip” bill. But saving Colstrip is not the real issue here. Rather, this bill is a smoke screen to subsidize NWE — mainly from all its risks as a business — and ensure that costs, whatever they are, associated with Colstrip are paid by the rate payer and not the corporate executives, shareholders, and financiers of this multi-billion dollar company. While the community of Colstrip and its workers deserve support, that’s not what this bill is about.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle Letter to the Editor 4/3/21