“Re-regulating” NorthWestern Energy

Montana State Roundup

Published July 1, 2007  | July 2007 issue

The Legislature voted to deregulate Montana electric utilities 10 years ago, a decision that critics—including Gov. Brian Schweitzer—say imposed higher prices on consumers. In the last session lawmakers rolled back history, passing a law that would "re-regulate" NorthWestern Energy, letting the state's largest utility once again own power plants and recover development costs from customers at regulated rates.

Supporters said the law was needed to break what they see as a monopoly over electricity production held by PPL Montana, NorthWestern's main power supplier under deregulation.

The Public Service Commission would approve NorthWestern proposals to build or acquire new plants, and set electricity rates.

Opponents of the bill argued that passing along the costs of pre-approved power plants to consumers might increase rates, not lower them.

Phil Davies