MONTANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

HELENA – The Montana Public Service Commission decided on Aug. 27, by unanimous vote, to strengthen rather than repeal a PSC rule requiring disclosure of public utility executive salaries. The PSC plans to amend the existing rule to provide a more transparent approach that better reflects state law.

The existing rule was intended to force public disclosure of a utility company’s top three executive salaries, but in the commission’s view, includes conflicting language that renders the rule ineffective.

“The commission reviewed the many comments it received on the proposed rule repeal and decided the better course of action was to amend and improve the rule rather than repeal it altogether,” said PSC vice chairman Bob Lake.

The current rule in part states that the salaries of a regulated utility’s three highest paid Montana-based employees are public and cannot be given protected status by the PSC. But in another section, it authorized the commission to grant protective orders.

“The rule, as written, is internally contradictory, and creates confusion rather than transparency,” said PSC Commissioner Roger Koopman. “It also invites expensive lawsuits like the one we are now facing [with Missoula’s Mountain Water Co.]. Clearing up the rule by amendment will preserve its original intent, make it more understandable and provide for legally appropriate commission review,” he said.

The PSC had conducted a rulemaking proceeding on its proposal to repeal the rule. As a result of the new direction from the commission, PSC staff will create a draft amendment that will treat utility executive compensation information in a non-discriminatory manner that reflects the requirements of state law.

If the PSC agrees with the draft language, the proposed amendment will be noticed to the public for comment prior to final action.