Please don't spin this as "choice."

It's funny, you know, I seem to have come full circle as a 'blogger. In the very first piece I ever posted on this 'blog, I complained about our local paper's editorial board advocating what was then HB642 in the last legislature. HB642 would have allowed public utilities to become the default supplier for their respective municipalities and, once they passed PSC muster, they would be the only available supplier for their municipalities. In other words, Electric City Power would go before the PSC once and, when approved, would be the required power supplier for all residents of Great Falls. I was complaining that the Tribune presented this as consumer choice when, in fact, it was anything but. The bill, thankfully, died.

(As an interesting aside, the sponsor of HB642 was Rep. George Golie from Great Falls. George Golie from Great Falls now sits on the Board of Directors of Electric City Power, Inc. Hmmm. It's a small world, isn't it?)

Fast forward two years. Now it's nearly February of 2007, and we have a new bill.

Rep. Deb Kottel has sponsored HB 346. This is a bill that seems curiously similar to Rep. Golie's bill, with the same effect for City residents.

First, the bill creates a new creature, a "local government supply entity." This is "an entity that is established and regulated by a local government unit with self-government powers that has acquired by ownership or lease an interest in a generation facility with at least 50 megawatts of capacity or has secured through a long-term contract an electricity supply of at least 50 megawatts for purposes of providing electricity supply services within its jurisdictional limits." This sounds really familiar to me. Wait, don't tell me...let me guess...it's on the tip of my tongue...Electric City Power!

So, what's so great about a "local government supply entity" anyway? Well, once it submits a plan demonstrating it plans to sell power to its residents, "all default supply customers of the public utility within the jurisdictional limits of the local government supply entity must be transferred to the local government supply entity," and customers that use less than 50 kilowatts per year will be "assigned to the local government supply entity as a default supply customer and must receive the customer's electricity supply from the local government supply entity."

Did you get that? Once Electric City Power is established as a "local government supply entity," Northwestern Energy is ruled out, and you must buy your power from ECP. Even if the ECP rates are higher than market.

No worries, though, right? The Public Service Commission will regulate the rates for you to make sure that you are paying no more than market cost for your power...won't they?

Uh, sorry. Not this time. Once your "local government supply entity" is established as your default supplier, the PSC cannot establish your rates. Nope. They'll be established by the "governing body" of the "local government supply entity." In other words, former Mayor Randy Gray, former Rep. George Golie, and others, will be setting your power rates. And no, the PSC can't reduce those rates for you.

Well, that sounds amazingly like Rep. Golie's bill a couple years ago, doesn't it? I guess we'll be hearing a whole bunch about how Rep. Kottel's bill gives the consumer "choice."

I have one question, though. If "the availability of secure, reliable and economical supplies of electricity at stable economical and cost-based rates for all residential, commercial, industrial and other electric consumers within the City," is such a great thing, why is the City trying to use the force of law to compel us to buy their power from them? If City Manager Lawton is so damn positive his new coal plant is going to kick the booty off all the competition, why is he trying to eliminate the competition by law?

Wait a minute. That's not fair. I don't know that our City Manager is behind HB346. In fact, he might have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.

But, regardless of who is behind it, you should let your opinion be known. The bill is presently pending before the Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications Committee. Its members:

Alan Olson
George Groesbeck
Harry Klock
Scott Boggio
Robyn Driscoll
Dave Gallik
Dennis Himmelberger
Llew Jones
Diane Rice
Wayne Stahl
Bill Thomas
Jonathon Windy Boy

Let these fine folks know how you feel about being forced to buy your unregulated power from Electric City Power.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We definitly need some changes done at city hall!