Circ activation contest

Does expensive energy serve the working man, Governor? 

2013-05-21T00:00:00Z Does expensive energy serve the working man, Governor? By Roger Koopman Helena Independent Record
May 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If talk is cheap, political talk is even cheaper. We can thank our governor for reminding us of this, when he vetoed two bills, unanimously endorsed by the PSC that would have provided consumers with well-deserved protection against rising energy costs.

Gov. Steve Bullock won the election by convincing enough people that his brand of big government would somehow help working folks and people on fixed incomes. But the game is over, the crowd went home, and the scoreboard reads: Radical Environmentalists- 2. Working Stiffs - 0. 

Senate Bill 31, sponsored by Dillon’s Debby Barrett, was designed to inject a modicum of sanity into a very silly law that was strapped onto ratepayers’ backs a few years ago by members of the governor’s own party. Montana’s profoundly anti-consumer “Renewable Portfolio Standards” requires all utilities to generate and/or purchase at least 15 percent of their electricity from so-called “renewable” sources - regardless of the budget-busting effects on everyone’s energy bills.

Because the drafters of the RPS legislation had the singular motive of promoting wind farms at any cost, they excluded the most conspicuous form of renewable energy – water! I can’t imagine another substance more renewable than H2O. And, of course, hydroelectric generation is 100 percent carbon free. 

SB 31 proposed to amend the RPS law to include future hydroelectric generation in the definition of “renewable.” This would help stabilize and lower our utility bills. With hydro counting toward the state’s renewables quota, ratepayers would pay for proportionately less wind energy than what is now being forced upon them – a real benefit to retired people, low-wage earners and everyone else who struggles with utility bills that stretch household budgets beyond their limits. Yet the governor killed the bill. 

SB 138, sponsored by Sen. Art Wittich, also sought to reduce our energy bills. Did you know that, by law, every cent of taxes paid by power companies passes through to you the ratepayer? And did you know that in Montana, traditional utility companies pay an astronomical 12 percent state property tax on poles, wires and pipelines? In total, the average tax burden on Montana utilities is 6 percent, compared with neighboring states Idaho and North Dakota that tax their utilities 1 and 1.5 percent respectively. So is it any wonder that about 10 percent of our utility costs comes from state taxes? 

However, if your facility produces politically correct “renewable” energy, your transmission and distribution property gets taxed at a favored “Class 14” rate of only 3 percent instead of 12. Wittich’s bill sought to end this discriminatory practice by requiring that all T&D facilities be taxed at the 3 percent rate. However, instead of providing a huge break for energy consumers, governor Bullock killed the bill.

Montana’s political reality is that we are blessed with more environmental extremist groups per capita than any state in the union. Very wealthy people, who are unconcerned about the $12 wage earner or the 80-year-old on Social Security, bankroll these outfits. They are too busy saving the planet to worry about real people with real families and real bills they can’t pay. 

So the enviros pitched a hissy fit over these two bills, and it didn’t quit when the Republican legislature passed them anyway. They just redirected their attention to the man their money helped to elect: Governor Steve Bullock. Champion of the people. Defender of the little guy. Right. And our governor couldn’t stomp over the top of us fast enough, veto pen in hand, his radical political buddies leading the way.

Commenting on this, Montana Policy Institute director Carl Graham observed,

“...This is what happens when agendas and debts to moneyed constituencies come before responsibility to taxpayers and rate-payers. How many people have to decide between paying for groceries and paying their power bill because Bullock owes his radical green backers for putting him in office? How is it social justice, to force people to pay more for one of the few things that they cannot do without?”

The governor tried to justify our inflated power bills and diminished freedom by talking about all the “jobs” and economic expansion expensive energy creates. But anyone with lights on in their attic knows those are false numbers that do not take into account where those same job-producing dollars would have gone if they weren’t diverted into high-cost windmills and bloated power bills. 

The lesson: beware of those who campaign for the working guy and who, once elected, work for those who make more money in a day than a working guy sees in a year. A cadre of environmental elitists and the politicians who do their bidding are holding Montanans hostage. Think about this the next time you pay your power bill. Or cast your vote.

Roger Koopman is a Public Service Commissioner from Bozeman, representing PSC District 3. He previously served two terms in the Montana State House of Representatives from HD 70.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - June 03, 2013 10:05 am
    Wind generated energy is an Obama "shell game". Like Obamas' solar panel company, Solindra, went bust when the Chineese out performed the ill thought out plan to create jobs and "green energy" in America. Obama's folley lost the tax payers billions. He even awarded some of his buddies subsidies to purchase solar panels from Solindra to try to make it look like Solindra was a going concern. Just like Montana demanding that Energy Companies are forced to purchase expensive wind energy at consumers expense. Like Solindra and gasahol plants, of a few years back, wind power are government scams that are subsidised by the tax payers. The upside for the politician is they get votes from the, "no nothing voting green dreamers". Billions dollars, earned by hard working tax payers are paying the bill for these boondogles. Money that could well be spent on the general public for more procuctive programs. It is the PEOPLE who pay the bills with the taxes. For what? To get a voting block of non thinking dreamers.
  2. MtMadeMan
    Report Abuse
    MtMadeMan - May 21, 2013 7:34 pm
    I hope you are being sarcastic...! or is it sardonic?
  3. turner
    Report Abuse
    turner - May 21, 2013 5:27 pm
    Actually the only surprise in Mr. Koopman's comments is that it took him this long to bring political theatrics to the forefront at the PSC. This guy has been a bomb thrower, even in his own party, or should I say a bomb thrower in the extreme right of his own party, to the point where many Republicans dreaded the prospect he would be elected to office once again. Sadly, that has happened and this will not be the last we hear from Mr. Koopman.
  4. claudius
    Report Abuse
    claudius - May 21, 2013 1:27 pm
    Mr Koopman campaigned on protecting citizens. So far, all we've seen from him are efforts to hide utility executive compensation, to allow power utilities to evade the clearly stated requirements for increasing their renewable energy sources, and to violate clean air standards that protect children and the elderly.

    The Commissioners were not elected to use their positions to play silly partisan political games or serve the interests of utility monopolies at the expense of taxpayers.

    False statements about utility taxes don't help ratepayers, Mr Koopman. Do your job.
  5. caribouboy
    Report Abuse
    caribouboy - May 21, 2013 7:04 am
    Mr. Koopman, are you suggesting that taxes foisted upon the utility companies are then passed on to the consumer? I find that hard to believe.

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