Montana commission holds hearing on refund benefits of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Published on September 05, 2018 by Dave Kovaleski

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NorthWestern Energy in Montana proposes to spend roughly $14 million in benefits received from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on programs for customers, the utility revealed at a hearing held last week by the Montana Public Service Commission.

When Congress passed the TCJA in December 2017, the commission issued a notice requiring all regulated utilities in the state to file proposals addressing the effects of the TCJA. This hearing specifically discussed NorthWestern Energy’s proposal for how to spend the benefits from the tax cuts.

“The benefits of the tax cuts should be passed on to the consumers of Montana,” Commission Chairman Brad Johnson. “Today’s hearing helps make sure that happens in the most beneficial possible way.”

NorthWestern Energy said it proposes to spend the financial benefits of the tax cuts on a combination of refunds to consumers and the trimming of hazard trees that pose a risk to their distribution and transmission wires.

At the hearing, several groups offered suggestions on how the benefits should be spent. The Montana Consumer Counsel and the Large Customer Group, an organization of industrial-size NorthWestern customers, said the entire benefit should be directly refunded to customers.

Other groups, including the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Northwest Energy Coalition, suggested it be spent on energy efficiency, low-income weatherization, and a fund to help Colstrip adjust to the eventual closure of a coal-fired electric generating facility in town.

While no final decision was made, the commission will convene another meeting to vote on NorthWestern’s proposed plan.