HELENA – The Public Service Commission has fired back at a NorthWestern energy to let energy customers know the PSC did not approve of its latest rate increase.

In the NorthWestern release the company said, “As a regulated utility, our rates are thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Montana Public Service commission with involvement from independent third parties.”

The PSC said Thursday that the latest significant rate increase came without the approval of the PSC because State Law says NorthWestern energy is allowed to automatically pass property tax increases on to its customers.

According to the PSC, they had a number of questions concerning whether NorthWestern was properly allocating those increases to its retail customers. NorthWestern declined to answer those questions, before automatically implementing the rate increase.

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The PSC says it supports legislation to eliminate the automatic rate adjustment.

The PSC noted, “House Bill 189, carried by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R., Billings), would repeal this automatic rate adjustment provision. However, the bill is being held up in the House Energy and Technology Committee following vigorous lobbying by NorthWestern. Effectively, NorthWestern is telling consumers in a news release that the PSC approves its rates, even while insisting that legislators resist a bill that would give the PSC powers to do just that in this situation. The Commission urges members of the public to contact their legislators on this matter.”

It is important to note that NorthWestern blames high February bills on a technical problem that led them to estimate usage for certain homes between Helena and White Sulphur Springs.

The estimates were based on January of 2016, which was significantly warmer this this past January. After the estimates were found to be lower than the previous years the company added the discrepancies to the February bills.