Commission wants to avoid court fight

HELENA - Although state utility regulators believe they have jurisdiction over Montana Power Co.'s proposed sale of its energy properties, they want lawmakers to clarify their authority at next month's special legislative session.

On Wednesday, the Public Service Commission voted 4-0 to support having the special session make their authority clear and prevent a lengthy court fight with Montana Power Co. and its buyer.

The PSC vote adopted a motion made by Commissioner Bob Anderson, D-Helena.

Gov. Marc Racicot plans to call a special legislative session May 8 to fund economic-development programs after the Montana Supreme Court in January struck down as unconstitutional the previous way they were financed.

Racicot has not yet issued his official call for the session, which limits its agenda, and has been trying to decide whether to include the issue of the PSC jurisdiction.

On March 28, Montana Power announced it was selling its electric transmission and distribution lines, natural gas pipelines and its coal, oil and natural gas commodity businesses.

The PSC maintains it has jurisdiction over the sale and the right to order the proceeds split with consumers.

Montana Power officials will make its first formal presentation on the sale to the PSC at 2 p.m. Thursday at the commission offices.

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