I'm writing to thank the public and the press for following the Public Service Commission's nine-day-long hearing on NorthWestern Energy's proposed acquisition of a dozen dams. The PSC expects to make a decision on this matter in September, and that decision will have consequences decades to come for Montana consumers.
There is still time to offer public comment on the deal, and you can do so online at http://psc.mt.gov. The fundamental issue in the proceeding boils down to how much skin in the game NorthWestern Energy should be required to have, if things don't turn out as they have projected. NorthWestern has made predictions that the dams will need a modest amount of capital infusions, compared with the past decade, to keep them in good working order.
The Montana Consumer Counsel, which represents ratepayers, questions that judgment. Likewise, NorthWestern has factored into its valuation a significant cost for carbon emissions, which drives up the value of noncarbon-emitting resources like the dams. The Consumer Counsel believes NorthWestern is overstating the likely costs. While those two parties don't have a big disagreement over the first-year price of the dams, there is a vast difference between the two parties on who should have to pay if NorthWestern' s long-term predictions are wrong. Should it be consumers, shareholders, or should the risk be shared between them?
The PSC will have to resolve that question. And we want to hear from you.
Montana Public Service Commissioner
(Travis Kavulla is a Republican from Great Falls. He represents the Hi-Line on the PSC.)