A planned transmission grid upgrade by the U.S. Department of Energy is currently open to public comment after Montana's Senators issued requests that the department listen to rural co-ops and their users.

“I encourage all Montanans to make their voices heard," said Senator Jon Tester, "so our rural co-ops have the flexibility they need to continue providing affordable energy for small businesses and hard-working Montana families.”

Many fear that the upgrade costs could be forced onto Montana energy users who may end up paying up to three times as much for energy despite the fact that the upgrade is designed to make it easier to send energy away from Montana to metropolitan centers on the west coast.

"What I'm going to write," says Ray Ellis, General Manager of the Lincoln Electric Co-op, "is that all the costs associated with any transmission upgrade should be borne by whoever creates them and not by the primary energy users in Montana."

Ray Ellis explains in greater detail how he believes the transmission upgrade costs should be spread:

The Department of Energy and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu have not outlined how the costs for the transmission upgrade will be handled.

All comments should be received by the Western Area Power Administration at the address below on or before 4PM Mountain Standard Time, January 22, 2013.

To send written comments via email to the Joint Outreach Team, send them to JOT@wapa.gov.

Comments may also be delivered by certified mail or commercial mail to:

Anita J. Decker,

Acting Administrator, Western Area Power Administration,

P.O. Box 281213,

Lakewood, CO 80228–8213 or fax to

(720) 962–7059.