Montana's Public Service Commission (PSC) is currently re-assessing the fees charged for transport of natural gas by Northwestern Energy. The adjustments could have a financial impact on many Northwestern Energy users.

Northwestern Energy wants a $15.7 million increase in the fees it is allowed to charge and the PSC came very close to that figure last month when it created a temporary interim fee of $13.2 million.

However, PSC Vice Chair Bob Lake says Northwestern Energy will likely not get the full amount requested.

"It will be a little bit higher," said Lake. "It will not be as high as the interim allowed. The interim allowed about $13.5 million and I think the settlement here comes in at about $10.5 million."

Lake says natural gas rates will likely rise, but they are historically low.

"About ten or maybe twelve years ago, if your memory is running good, you'll remember that natural gas was about an average cost of $100, $110. Today they are about $81. With this latest increase they may go to $85."

The Public Service commission is set to make its final decision sometime in the next six weeks. The PSC typically reassesses about every five years as unforeseen market forces impact the heavily regulated utilities.

Some of the reasons for the increased fees include the need for Northwestern Energy to invest money into infrastructure to transport natural gas. Other cost impacts include new federal regulations.

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