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The Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative on Monday rejected a 20 percent rate boost from its power supplier.

During a regular meeting of the Huntley-based Yellowstone Valley board, trustees also voted to hire an attorney to represent the electric co-op in the bankruptcy filing by Southern Montana Electric Transmission and Generation, its wholesale power supplier, said Brandon Wittman, assistant general manager.

Yellowstone Valley’s board action comes after three members of the six-member Southern board voted on Oct. 21 for an immediate 20 percent increase to its members and to file for bankruptcy. The actions came after the same three members voted to bar Beartooth Electric Cooperative’s trustee, Arleen Boyd, from sitting on the Southern board.

Beartooth, Yellowstone Valley, Fergus Electric Cooperative, Tongue River Electric Cooperative, Mid-Yellowstone Electric Cooperative and the city of Great Falls comprise Southern, a Billings-based umbrella cooperative.

Representatives from Fergus, Mid-Yellowstone and Tongue River voted against seating Boyd.

“They created a false majority,” Wittman said. That false majority, he said, passed “a rate increase that we think was illegal because the meeting was illegal.”

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A resolution adopted by Yellowstone Valley said Southern’s refusal to recognize Boyd as the Beartooth’s elected trustee was illegal and violated Southern’s bylaws and therefore, the rate increase was “a nullity.”

Yellowstone Valley’s actions follow a Beartooth board meeting last Friday in which Beartooth postponed a decision on the rate increase until it hires an attorney.

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Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

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