Energy measure sparks last-minute legislative drama

HELENA, Mont. - An energy bill pushed by state regulators and opposed by NorthWestern Energy has provided some last-minute drama in the waning days of the legislative session.

Lobbyists swarmed the Capitol on Wednesday in advance of another vote on a measure that sought to bar the utility from passing on its entire cost of buying emergency power to its 360,000 Montana customers.

Last week, a legislative maneuver to blast it out of committee failed by two votes. On Tuesday, another blast motion unexpectedly succeeded. A floor debate ensued. A few minds changed and the measure squeaked through for Wednesday's final vote.

NorthWestern lobbyists tried to kill the measure, as officials from the Public Services Commission sought to hang on to votes.

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