- Representatives on Montana's House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee this week heard testimony on two bills that would increase scrutiny of costs utilities charge their customers, KTVH reports.
- House Bill 189 would eliminate a "tracker" that allows utilities to automatically adjust rates to account for changes in property taxes, and would instead require review by state regulators.
- House Bill 193 would change how Northwestern Energy passes along the cost of power it purchases from other sources, adding a level of scrutiny before those expenses show up on customer bills.
Lawmakers in Montana are considering measures that might not change the rates charged to customers, but would require more oversight before some costs are passed on.
Currently, Montana allows utilities to automatically adjust their rates to account for changes in property taxes. HB 189 would strike provisions allowing the adjustment without a review, and also adds disclosure requirements.
In addition to having to present costs to the Montana Public Service Commission, lawmakers may require utilities to "separately disclose in a customer's bill the amount of state and local taxes and fees assessed against the public utility that the customer is paying.
While the first piece of legislation applies to all utilities in Montana, local NBC affiliate KTVH reports the second specifically targets Northwestern Energy. HB 193 would strike an exemption allowing the utility to recover the full cost of power it purchases from other sources. The bill also specifies that a utility "shall offer its customers the option of purchasing a product composed of or supporting power from certified environmentally preferred resources."
A spokesman for the utility told KTVH it opposes both bills; the property tax tracker is necessary because of the high cost the tax add, while the second piece of legislation would give regulators too much say over the utility's expenses.