The Montana Public Service Commission is accusing Northwestern Energy of misleading the public about rate increases that have driven energy bills higher for most customers this year. Public Service Commissioner Travis Kavulla points to a claim made in a recent press release by Northwestern Energy that it’s “rates are thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Montana Public Service Commission with involvement from independent third parties.”

"That usually is true, but in this case consumers were complaining, it seemed to me, about rate increases that directly resulted from this past January 1st tax tracking increase," said Kavulla. "It is simply not true that the PSC approved those. Those rates went into effect without PSC approval."

Under Montana law, rate tracking increases are allowed without prior approval by the PSC, and Kavulla says Northwestern Energy has been working hard this legislative session to keep the law the way it is.

"You've effectively got Northwestern telling consumers in a news release that the PSC approves those rates even while going on a really vigorous lobbying campaign insisting that legislators defeat a bill that would give the PSC powers to do just that, approve or disapprove rates when it comes to this type of expense," Kavulla said.

The PSC is urging the legislature to pass House Bill 189, arguing that the legislature has a duty to Montana consumers to ensure that a monopoly does not have the ability to raise rates without oversight.