MontanaPBS Documentary Examines 1990‘s Electricity Deregulation
Power Lines in Montana
A new MontanaPBS documentary, “Power Brokers,” challenges the long-established assumptions of how Montana’s legislature came to adopt one of the most sweeping changes in state economic history – the deregulation of electric power rates in 1997. The program premieres on MontanaPBS on Tuesday, March 2 at 8:00 p.m.
For more than a year, MontanaPBS investigative reporter Anna Rau, who also wrote and produced the documentary, researched the origins of the deregulation movement, interviewed principle players in the legislature, the Public Service Commission, power industry experts and consumer advocates.
The documentary details why the Montana Power Company pushed so hard to pass a deregulation bill, then surprised many stakeholders by selling all the company’s power generation assets. The power company’s leadership sank most of the proceeds into the burgeoning telecommunications industry, dropping the MPC moniker for “Touch America.” Just four years later, caught in the telecommunications glut of 1999, the company declared bankruptcy, wiping out stock investments held by thousands of Montana households.
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Rau's report reveals the roles of then-Governor Marc Racicot and members of his administration in deregulation, and the outside interests driving the nationwide deregulation movement.
MontanaPBS is a collaborative service of KUFM-TV at The University of Montana and KUSM-TV at Montana State University. Check local listings for channel.