House Bill 193 could force NorthWestern Energy to halt the practice of passing some costs of purchasing energy on the open market on to their customers.

Public Service Commission spokesman Chris Puyear said the bill will bring NorthWestern Energy’s policies in line with Montana-Dakota Utilities.

“House Bill 193 repeals a carve-out that currently allows NorthWestern Energy to pas 100 percent of the costs of purchasing electricity on the open market directly through to ratepayers,” Puyear said. “This bill resolves an inconsistency with Montana-Dakota Utilities, which currently is subject to a cost sharing arrangement. They’re permitted to pass on 90 percent of their costs to ratepayers, while the company shoulders 10 percent of those costs. This bill would allow the Public Service Commission to set up a similar cost-sharing arrangement.”

Puyear described the consequences if House Bill 193 does not become law.

“We will continue with the status quo, and essentially hand NorthWestern Energy a credit card with no limit and let them run up the tab. Then the commission has to use a laborious process to go through each charge to determine what charges are just and reasonable. If it does pass, then the company would be put on the same cost-sharing plan as Montana-Dakota Utilities.”

The bill is up for its third reading on Wednesday.