A recent misleading letter to the editor has created some discussion in the print and social media. The issue is whether NorthWestern provided the recently signed coal contract in its recent request to the Montana Public Service Commission (MPSC) to approve a 25 percent purchase in Colstrip Unit 4. The reality is simple and easy to prove – the coal contract is included in our filing to the commission. NWE has also asked for it to be protected, based upon the contractual requirements set forth by the party selling the coal. Does this mean interveners can’t see the contract? Absolutely not! Any impression otherwise is absolutely false. Below are the very basic facts about protective orders:

1. It's standard practice for competitive businesses and vendors, like Talen Energy Montana, LLC, and Westmoreland Rosebud Mining, LLC, to protect confidential business information.

2. Any intervener in this case can see the protected information. It's just not on a public website.

3. All regulatory commissions, at both state and federal, use this process to protect confidential business information.

4. MPSC lawyers review all requests for protection to make sure they comply with Montana's constitutional public right to know.

It's disappointing that some parties are raising false issues in an attempt to undermine this acquisition. NorthWestern Energy has submitted its filing to the MPSC and facts should be what determines the outcome. It is disappointing that a sitting member of the Legislature’s interim energy committee doesn't understand this basic regulatory process.

John Hines

Vice president, NorthWestern Energy