- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana regulators say rates for NorthWestern Energy customers are set to rise as the company passes on to consumers a portion of its increased property taxes.

The Public Service Commission on Tuesday declined to take action on the proposed rate increase, allowing it to take effect.

It allows NorthWestern to collect an additional $19.3 million from customers. Rates will increase 5.8 percent for electric service and 3.7 percent for gas service.

PSC members criticized a state law that allows utilities to automatically pass through property tax increases to customers.

They say the law acts as a de facto sales tax on energy that customers purchase.

A proposal from Billings Republican Rep. Daniel Zolnikov to change the law is pending before the House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee.

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