The Montana Public Service Commission has asked District Court Judge Leslie Halligan to lift a temporary stay that has been put on the sale of Missoula’s Mountain Water Company to Liberty Utilities so that they can solicit input from the parties.

Last Friday, January 8, Liberty Utilities finalized the purchase of Mountain Water Company and other Park Water holdings to the outrage of the Public Service Commission and the City of Missoula. PSC chairman Brad Johnson says the sale is not acceptable and should have been overseen by the PSC.

"We simply cannot allow that kind of precedent, where a regulated utility simply gives the back of their hand to the commission and goes on to do what they want to do irrespective of our role in the process. That's the thing that we are saying is not acceptable and we will forcefully respond to."

However forceful the PSC's response may be, Johnson seemed to have little hope of actually reversing the sale.

"I'm not suggesting for a moment that we are going to force the sale to be undone," said Johson. "I doubt that that is a realistic expectation. But we are looking at alternative remedies to make clear that if this kind of end-run happens in the future, that there are going to be specific consequences."

The sale of Park Water to Liberty Utilities without PSC approval was an unprecedented move in Montana. The PSC plans to deter similar transfers in the future, but whether that deterrence comes in the form of fines or regulations has not been determined.