Montana

Senate endorses utility cost-sharing plan in surprise vote

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana Senate has endorsed a bill that would require NorthWestern Energy to absorb some of the financial burden that results from unexpected outages instead of passing all of those costs to its customers.

The unexpected action on Tuesday comes just days after the chamber narrowly rejected an attempt by Republican Rep. Jedediah Hinkle of Belgrade to have the matter heard on the Senate floor.

Regulators were pushing the measure after NorthWestern challenged the Public Services Commission's order requiring the utility to refund Montana ratepayers $8.2 million. That's the amount the company passed on to 360,000 electricity customers after it had to buy power from the open market because of a 2013 outage of the Colstrip coal plant.

Hinkle said his motion to resurrect the matter was a last-minute decision made just an hour before Tuesday's vote.


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