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Letter

Let the Consumer Counsel Do its Job 

The state Constitution to protect the interests of Montanans who are customers of monopoly utilities

By Lynn Stanley

The Montana Consumer Counsel was created by the state Constitution to protect the interests of Montanans who are customers of monopoly utilities.

Now we have Republicans in the state Legislature pushing to keep the Consumer Counsel from doing its job.

The Senate Rules Committee – chaired by Republican Steve Fitzpatrick (son of longtime NorthWestern Energy lobbyist John Fitzpatrick) – is trying to ban the Consumer Counsel from testifying on behalf of consumers during the 2023 legislature, unless the legislature gives its permission first. Why the effort to stifle the Consumer Counsel?  

Because in the last two legislative sessions, the Consumer Counsel testified effectively against Republican plans to prop up NorthWestern Energy’s investment in the aging Colstrip power plant. Those plans would have shifted the company’s financial risk onto the backs of consumers, which could have cost Montanans $200 million. Both bills failed after the Consumer Counsel’s office shined a light on what the effect of the bills would be.

That made the Consumer Counsel very unpopular with legislative Republicans. Republicans need to remember who they work for. It’s not NorthWestern Energy, it’s the people of Montana. This should be a no-brainer.

Lynn Stanley
Kalispell

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