West / Regional Reports

Montana Utility Goes To Court

BUTTE, Mont. — NorthWestern Energy (NEW), which provides natural gas to approximately 16,000 customers throughout Montana, has filed suit in Lewis and Clark County District Court in an effort to overturn the Montana Public Service Commission’s (PSC’s) decision to disallow the recovery of more than $6 million in actual gas costs.

The company took the issue to court after the PSC rejected the company’s Motion for Reconsideration in recent weeks. NEW contests in its court filing that the majority of commissioners violated NorthWestern Energy’s procedural rights and rights of due process when they voted to disallow a substantial portion of the company’s actual gas costs from the 2002-2003 heating season.

The complaint also states that the commission majority acted arbitrarily when it failed to follow the evidence in the record, and ignored the advice of PSC staff and the Montana Consumer Counsel. Additionally, the complaint states that PSC ignored its previous orders and practices regarding other companies when it decided that NEW had acted “imprudently by relying on market index prices for natural gas.”

On July 3, the PSC voted to issue a final order concluding that NEW acted imprudently when securing gas supplied. The effect of the order, which NEW is asking the court to review, is to deny NEW approximately $6 million in revenue for the actual gas costs it expended in 2002-2003.

Publication date: 07/28/2003

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