Utilities shell out to fight dam measure - Owners spend nearly $1 million to keep property out of state hands

Associated Press Writer
from Great Falls Tribune

HELENA, MONTANA - 8/15/02 -- Two companies that own 12 hydroelectric dams in Montana have spent nearly $1 million so far to defeat a ballot measure that would allow the state to buy the dams, financial reports filed with the political practices commissioner show.

Spending by PPL Montana, which operates the dams formerly owned by Montana Power Co., reached $774,373 by Aug. 3. Washington-based Avista, which owns a dam at Noxon, has spent $188,525.

Just over half of the $963,000 total went to a group fighting Initiative 145, in either cash or goods and services such as staff time.

Taxpayers Against I-145 has raised $439,571 and spent all but $26,527, the latest report shows.

That is 21 times more money than backers of the measure have raised.

Montanans for Dam Cheap Power reported total contributions of $20,670 and spending of $15,954, leaving $4,716 in the bank. The organization owes Don Judge, its campaign director, $15,000 in salary.

Opponents have received $149,094 in non-cash help from the two utilities, while backers have $31,092. All but about $3,000 of those in-kind donations to initiative supporters came from Montana Public Interest Research Group.

Taxpayers Against I-145 spent $54,717 in the latest 30-day reporting period, with the largest expenses being $9,000 for campaign director, $7,640 for county fair displays and $7,292 for consulting services.

I-145 would create a five-member Montana Public Power Commission to determine whether it makes sense for the state to buy and run the dams. If so, the commission would negotiate with the two companies, and if they failed to agree on a price, the commission could condemn the dams and pay market value for them.

The state would be granted up to $500 million in bonding authority to buy the dams and finance them with revenue bonds paid for by power sales, not tax money.

Opponents have filed a lawsuit to a vote on the measure.

Meanwhile, proponents of another ballot measure that would require the state to spend more money on anti-tobacco programs have raised $46,625. That is a $10,000 increase during the past month, thanks to a donation from the American Cancer Society.

Tobacco Settlement for Tobacco Prevention and Health has spent $30,022 so far, and has about $16,600 remaining.

I-146 would mandate almost half of Montana's annual payment from settlement of a multistate lawsuit against the tobacco industry be used to finance programs to fight tobacco use.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]


Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site