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Montana utility looks to undo deregulation woes

Published: Friday, Sept. 27 2013 9:12 a.m. MDT

FILE - This July 1, 1999, file photo shows Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River near Burbank, Wash. (Jackie Johnston, Associated Press) FILE - This July 1, 1999, file photo shows Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River near Burbank, Wash. (Jackie Johnston, Associated Press)

HELENA, Mont. — NorthWestern Energy says the same hydroelectric dams that once served its Montana customers are the "absolute ideal resource."

CEO Bob Rowe told investors on Friday morning that spending $900 million to buy back the dams from PPL Montana is in the long-term interest of customers and shareholders.

It is the same pitch a predecessor with the former Montana Power Co. made in the 1990s to usher in deregulation, split the company up, and send Montana customers to the open market for their electricity.

Rowe says that he has envisioned rebuilding a regulated utility that owns its own electricity generating capability ever since taking over in 2008.

He expects the idea will be warmly received in Montana, where deregulation has been unpopular very quickly after it ushered in higher electricity rates.

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