(MTN News-Helena) The state Public Service Commission on Tuesday rejected an 8-million-dollar electric rate increase requested by NorthWestern Energy – but just barely.

On a three-two vote, the P-S-C said NorthWestern cannot charge Montana ratepayers for costs related to a seven-month outage at the Colstrip-four power plant in 2013.

The utility had to buy power to replace electricity not coming from Colstrip – and sought to charge ratepayers for that replacement power.

But a majority of the commission said NorthWestern took no precautions, or other steps, to protect consumers from outage costs.

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A state consumer office, and two environmental groups, argued NorthWestern should bear the costs.

Commissioners Brad Johnson, Roger Koopman and Travis Kavulla agreed, and voted to deny NorthWestern’s the request.

Commissioners Kirk Bushman and Bob Lake voted for the utility, saying they saw no proof that it acted imprudently.

The increase had been granted on an interim basis – so, now, NorthWestern customers should see a reduction in their electric bills.




Reporter: Mike Dennison