Montana Politics

Energy woes…again…

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As previously reported here, the Public Service Commission recently approved a 14% rate hike for Northwestern Energy natural gas customers because they apparently didn’t purchase the amount required when the rate were low. Ignoring, for just a moment, that the price of natural gas is decreasing on the energy market, Northwestern is now asking the PSC for another rate hike because they received a big tax bill. Apparently, state law allows rate increases to recoup property taxes bills.

Northwestern of course, is blameless in this mess…

John Alke, a Helena attorney representing the company, blamed the increase on the state Department of Revenue for raising NorthWestern’s property tax assessment from $52 million to $64.2 million.
“That is a very unusual jump in value that has dramatic impact on the ratepayer,” he told the commissioners.
Alke said the rate increase is “driven solely by the actions of one of your co-agencies in the state.”

I am sure I am missing something here. Even if the law allows for that, it seems rather shameful to me that Northwestern is complaining about their increasing tax bill on the heels of receiving an aggressive rate increase due to natural gas cost just hours after the energy market reported notable drops in gas prices. In the last year alone, natural gas prices have increases an astonishing 45%.

I don’t know all the math but it would seem that if they received a rate increase based on the high cost of gas, the the gas doesn’t cost as much as expected, there would be increase of profit. If their profit is increasing, how can we justify another rate increase?

Oh…yeah….it is the state’s fault.

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