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Say Two Freshmen Causing Higher Power Rates

July 13, 2001
CONTACT: Shane M. Hedges
Governorís Office

HELENA, MONTANA -- Governor Judy Martz and the Republican legislative leadership called on Representative Chris Harris (D-Bozeman) and Representative Michelle Lee (D-Livingston), two first term legislators, to drop their lawsuit against Attorney General Mike McGrath. The leaders said Lee and Harris' actions could increase Montana power rates by potentially $30 million.

"Montana consumers are being hurt by this lawsuit. It is my sincere hope that these two freshmen legislators will hear the voice of reason and drop their case," said Governor Martz, after learning that an investor seeking revenue bonds from the Montana Power Authority will be unable to secure those bonds because of the action. "If they won't, Montana consumers will pay the price."

Dick Vinson, who is seeking to build a 100 megawatt coal-fired gasification power facility near Hardin, tried to persuade Lee and Harris to drop their lawsuit by explaining it will increase the cost of producing electricity in his plant from 3.5 cents per kilowatt to 3.9 cents per kilowatt. Mr. Vinson had hoped to utilize the lower cost bonds from the Power Authority to keep the cost low; however, the Authority will unlikely be able to issue any bonds with the politically motivated lawsuit in play.

"I simply cannot believe that Michelle Lee, one of Montana's great protectors of low income Montanans, is selling them down the river. It is simply amazing to me that left-wing political extremists have put a stranglehold on Representative Lee by making her take lead on this lawsuit, and that the Representative is willing to bury her head in the sand while Montana consumers are left in the dark because of it," said House Majority Leader Paul Sliter, the sponsor of HB 474. "In my experience, I'm not sure I've ever seen a more obstructionist tactic that will be so devastating to Montana families."

"I call on Representative Lee and Representative Harris to put Montana consumers ahead of political extremism," said Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas. "Their actions will force hardworking Montana families to pay potentially more than $30 million in unnecessary power costs. If they won't back down, they had better be willing to explain to struggling Montana families why they are causing higher power rates."

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