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NORTHWEST POWER PLANNING COUNCIL HEARS CONCERNS OF MONTANANS

 JACKSON, Mont., July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- The Northwest Power Planning Council released the following today:
 Here in the Big Hole Valley of southwestern Montana, a sparsely populated region where economic problems are vastly different than in urban areas of the Northwest, the Northwest Power Planning Council paid a visit this month that was symbolic as well as practical.
 Usually the council conducts its monthly meetings in urban settings, but Jackson is representative of many rural areas where seasonal employment and low per-capita income affect the fragile economy, Council Chairman Stan Grace said. Like many other rural areas of the Northwest, the Big Hole Valley is served by a utility that buys its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration.
 "In the region's 'Jacksons,' most people pay a considerably higher proportion of their income on energy needs than do those of us in cities," Grace said. "As we on the council contemplate decisions that can increase the cost of electricity, decisions that we perceive will benefit society as a whole, we need to give some thought to the ability of remote rural populations to survive our experiments."
 Wilbur Anderson, general manager of Vigilante Electric Cooperative, told the council his Dillon, Mont.-based utility is continuing to develop cost-effective energy conservation, particularly in agriculture, which is the region's major industry. This is a big challenge, given the utility's widely dispersed customer base. Anderson said. The utility serves some 1,500 square miles, including the Big Hole Basin, but has fewer than three electric meters per mile of wire.
 In a related matter, representatives of the Montana Power Co. reported that the utility is continuing to study renewable resources, particularly wind and solar energy, to meet future demand for power. Right now, other sources of electricity are less expensive for the company, but that could change in the future, the officials said. For example, Montana Power could serve some remote areas with solar energy.
 Mark Reller, a Montana Council employee and representative of Governor Marc Racicot, also spoke at the meeting. Reller presented a synopsis of discussions regarding the state's request for payments from Bonneville for exceeding reservoir drawdown limitations at Hungry Horse and Libby dams in northwestern Montana. Montana is seeking payments for drawdowns in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1993.
 At the Jackson meeting, the council also approved a revised Fiscal Year 1994 budget and the budget for Fiscal Year 1995. The council's Fiscal Year 1995 budget is less than its Fiscal Year 1992 budget. In cutting the budget, the council reduced staffing, froze salaries, imposed travel restrictions and reduced administrative expenses. The council's budget is submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Bonneville Power Administration budget.
 The council is an agency of the four Northwest states of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and is charged by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 with long-range electric energy planning for the region and with protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin.
 -0- 7/8/93
 /CONTACT: Linda Gist, of the Northwest Power Planning Council, 800-222-3355/


CO: Northwest Power Planning Council ST: Oregon, Montana IN: UTI SU:

SB-JH -- SE012 -- 9723 07/08/93 18:38 EDT
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Date:Jul 8, 1993
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