NorthWestern Energy has a shot at the deal of the century: It is a special coupon called “pass the buck to ratepayers and get out risk free, with a guaranteed return on investment,” or in other words, SB278.

Senate Bill 278 is sponsored by Tom Richmond of Billings, and it gives our monopoly utility a window for deregulation. There would be no oversight from the Public Service Commission for the costs NWE charges to ratepayers if it chooses to buy more assets in Colstrip. NWE gets a discounted purchase price, and all its expenses from here on out would be covered in full by the ratepayer, including clean-up costs. The deal would get even better if NorthWestern Energy shuts down its respective piece of Colstrip before the investment is fully depreciated in 2042. It can recover any loss from the ratepayers. What a dream-come-true for the utility and its shareholders. But again, who does pay? The average Montanan who doesn't have any bargaining chips, that is who!

There is only one game in town to keep the lights on in many parts of the state, and it is NorthWestern Energy's. SB278 makes me wish I were a rural electric co-op member, where members/ratepayers/owners are one and the same. I am also seriously considering going off grid if this bill passes.

Call your senator and remind them to say no to SB278 and more expensive electricity bills. If your senator wishes to express support for the people of Colstrip, this is not the way to do it. It is a dangerous precedent and is a disservice to the citizens of this state.

Ken Decker


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