Tester to Energy Dept.: Listen to Montanans over changes to power grid

Senator urges department chief to consider local concerns about reliability, rates

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the U.S. Energy Department to incorporate suggestions from Montanans in any plans to upgrade the region’s transmission grid.

At Tester’s request, the Energy Department recently held a public forum in Billings to gather input from Montanans about its proposal to modernize the electric delivery system throughout the Western Area Power Administration.  The agency delivers power and related services across 15 states in the central and western United States.

Residents and co-op members at the meeting voiced concerns about costs and reliable power transmission.  Tester is following up with the Energy Department to urge it to take Montanans’ voices into account before moving forward.

“I understand the conversation focused on assuring reasonable power and infrastructure rate for consumers,” Tester wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “It is critically important to me that local and regional stakeholders who depend on the transmission system inform your recommendations.”

Tester and fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus also wrote the Energy Department in April to clarify the department’s plans and to make sure that Montana ratepayers are not responsible for transmission costs for out-of-state consumers.

“Are you committed to assuring that ratepayers are paying only for transmission costs that benefit them?” Tester asked Chu.

Tester’s letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu is available below and online HERE.  He also wrote a letter to Senate leaders earlier this year supporting funding for loans to electric co-ops.


July 23, 2012

The Honorable Steven Chu
Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Secretary Chu:

Thank you for responding to my request to engage local stakeholders by holding a work session in Billings, Montana on July 18th.  At this session, your staff gathered input from Montanans about your proposal to modernize the transmission system throughout the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), one of the Power Marketing Administrations (PMA) impacted by your March 16, 2012 Memorandum to the PMA administrators.  It is critically important to me that local and regional stakeholders, who depend on WAPA’s transmission system, inform your recommendations to PMA administrators. 

I understand there was a significant turnout to the meeting in Billings and the conversation focused on assuring reasonable power and infrastructure rates for WAPA consumers that are focused on consumers in the region.   Many of the topics raised were the same as Senator Baucus and I encouraged clarifying in our April 25th letter.  I encourage you to clarify your intentions to stakeholders regarding cost issues, to facilitate an open dialogue.

I hope you incorporate the suggestions made by Montana’s stakeholders into the recommendation you produce.  Thank you for considering my request and I look forward to working with you to assure a reliable, safe and cost-effective transmission system throughout the West.

Jon Tester