69-3-1612. Electric utility customer protection. (1) Because the commission's approval of a financing order is irrevocable, typically addresses very large amounts of financing undertaken, and is not reviewable by future commissions, in addition to its other powers and duties, the commission shall perform comprehensive due diligence in its evaluation of an application for a financing order and shall oversee the process used to structure, market, and price Montana energy impact assistance bonds.
(2) In addition to any other authority, the commission:
(a) may attach conditions to the approval of a financing order as the commission finds appropriate to maximize the financial benefits or minimize the financial risks of the transaction to customers and to directly impacted Montana workers and communities;
(b) may specify details of the process used to structure, market, and price Montana energy impact assistance bonds, including the selection of the underwriter or underwriters;
(c) shall review and determine the reasonableness of all proposed upfront and ongoing financing costs; and
(d) shall ensure that the structuring, marketing, and pricing of Montana energy impact assistance bonds maximizes net present value customer savings, consistent with market conditions and the terms of the financing order.
(3) (a) Within 120 days after the issuance of Montana energy impact assistance bonds, the applicant electric utility shall file with the commission information regarding the actual upfront and ongoing financing costs of the Montana energy impact assistance bonds. The commission shall review the prudence of the electric utility's action to determine whether the costs resulted in the lowest overall costs that were reasonably consistent with both market conditions at the time of the issuance and the terms of the financing order.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (3)(c), if the commission determines that the electric utility's actions were not prudent or were inconsistent with the financing order, the commission may apply any remedies that are available.
(c) The commission may not apply any remedy that has the effect, directly or indirectly, of impairing the security for the Montana energy impact assistance bonds.
(4) (a) In performing its responsibilities in accordance with this part, the commission may engage outside consultants and counsel experienced in securitized electric utility ratepayer-backed bond financing similar to Montana energy impact assistance bonds, and the expenses associated with the engagement may be included as financing costs and included in the Montana energy impact assistance charge. The costs are not an obligation of the state and are assigned solely to the transaction.
(b) Expenses incurred by the commission to hire and compensate additional temporary staff needed to perform its responsibilities under this part must be included as financing costs and included in the Montana energy impact assistance charge.
(5) If a utility's application for a financing order is denied or withdrawn for any reason and Montana energy impact assistance bonds are not issued, the commission's costs of retaining expert consultants, as authorized by subsection (4), must be paid by the applicant utility and are considered by the commission as a prudent deferred expense for recovery in the utility's future rates.