Regulation of Electric Coops Questioned

Aaron Flint posted on August 23, 2010 09:10 :: 1013 Views

The Daily Inter Lake conducts a post-mortem of the recent Energy and Telecommunications Interim committee meeting, where a statement concerning Montana’s energy policy died following a party-line vote.

In the article, Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar added fuel to the fire over Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, and a debate taking place inside the Public Service Commission over whether or not the PSC should regulate rural electric cooperatives. 

The goal behind the push for expanded regulatory control is to have the cooperatives support conservation programs that are run by environmental groups, who in turn donate to Democratic causes and candidates that support more of the same, said Molnar, the only Republican on the commission.

The article does offer interesting insight regarding potential regulation of the electric coops, however.  Here’s what Sen. Ron Erickson (D-Missoula_ had to say: 

“We had a lot of great testimony from the co-ops,” Erickson said. “My position is that we ought not force them into that alternative energy requirement. The co-ops are so varied across the state that it would make little sense to force something on one that wouldn’t apply to another.”

So it seems pretty clear that the electric coops are pushing back hard against regulation by the PSC or the state.  But it only raises the question: if Erickson and others are saying they don’t want coop members to have to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard, and thus- pay higher electricity rates…then why is it ok to force that mandate on everyone else in Montana?  For more on that discussion, see prior post concerning MDU’s proposed 13% rate increase.  The Renewable Portfolio Standard was adopted after a bill from then-State Senator Jon Tester.   

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