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PSC commissioner wants to kill NorthWestern project

Molnar, R-Laurel, says the proposed 430-mile power line into southern Idaho is nothing more than a way to drain inexpensive Montana-produced power out of the state and into lucrative California markets. ...If PPL, which supplies about half the power for NorthWestern's customers, could move more power to California markets, it could demand a much higher price from Montanans, Molnar says.

HELENA - While some state regulators say they're concerned whether a proposed NorthWestern Energy power line might end up costing Montana ratepayers, Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar is more blunt:

He wants to kill the project.

Molnar, R-Laurel, says the proposed 430-mile power line into southern Idaho is nothing more than a way to drain inexpensive Montana-produced power out of the state and into lucrative California markets.

If that happens, Montana consumers will be forced to buy a large chunk of their electricity at California prices, which would be much higher than Montanans pay now, he says.

"We will have to meet or beat California prices," he said Friday. "If 1,500 megawatts (of power) goes out through that line, we ain't got nuthin'. "

Other members of the PSC, which regulates utilities, say they have similar concerns about Montanans getting in a bidding war with California or other expensive Southwestern markets.

NorthWestern officials say the $1 billion power line, which wouldn't be completed until 2013 at the earliest, is intended to ship power from new renewable-power projects - primarily wind farms.

Other power already being generated in Montana at... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

HELENA - While some state regulators say they're concerned whether a proposed NorthWestern Energy power line might end up costing Montana ratepayers, Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar is more blunt:

He wants to kill the project.

Molnar, R-Laurel, says the proposed 430-mile power line into southern Idaho is nothing more than a way to drain inexpensive Montana-produced power out of the state and into lucrative California markets.

If that happens, Montana consumers will be forced to buy a large chunk of their electricity at California prices, which would be much higher than Montanans pay now, he says.

"We will have to meet or beat California prices," he said Friday. "If 1,500 megawatts (of power) goes out through that line, we ain't got nuthin'. "

Other members of the PSC, which regulates utilities, say they have similar concerns about Montanans getting in a bidding war with California or other expensive Southwestern markets.

NorthWestern officials say the $1 billion power line, which wouldn't be completed until 2013 at the earliest, is intended to ship power from new renewable-power projects - primarily wind farms.

Other power already being generated in Montana at relatively low cost should still be available for purchase in Montana, they say.

NorthWestern President Bob Rowe also says the utility, which serves 330,000 Montana customers, will continue to develop or buy power projects dedicated for customer use at rates based on the cost of the projects - and not the market.

"As we bring in more and more cost-based resources into the regulated supply, that reduces the kind of risk that (Molnar) is suggesting," Rowe says.

Molnar doesn't buy that argument, and asks what projects NorthWestern is developing that could replace power currently purchased from PPL Montana, which owns more than a dozen coal-fired and hydropower plants in the state.

If PPL, which supplies about half the power for NorthWestern's customers, could move more power to California markets, it could demand a much higher price from Montanans, Molnar says.

David Hoffman, PPL Montana's spokesman, says he won't speculate on whether the new line could drive up the price that PPL can ask for its power in Montana.

"That's a hypothetical question," he says. "I can't say if it will or if it won't."

Yet PPL Montana generally supports construction of a new power line into Idaho, Hoffman says, because it could open up new markets for the company.

Claudia Rapkoch, NorthWestern Energy's spokeswoman in Butte, says the company has arranged projects to supply about one-fourth of its electric customers' needs in Montana.


Source: http://www.missoulian.com/a...

JUL 13 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/21154-psc-commissioner-wants-to-kill-northwestern-project
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