I sat quiet and listened to the PSC guys get ready for the meeting on 3/14 to decide about the buyout, and my take is that the buyout is in the bag. The guys did things like make time for the public to comment....at 4:30 in the afternoon, and they want to end the meeting at 5. They spent a lot of time talking about what to do if the meeting got dragged out. Also, they decided that people who haven't already been identified as witnesses in the various procedures already filed can't be called as witnesses at the hearing. They spent more than an hour on this kind of procedural stuff, narrowing down the ability of anyone not already on board to comment. They are going to rule in favor of the buyout, although they may stick some conditions on it. That's the way I heard it, at least.
There's a pretty decent newspaper story on the last part of the hearing that was public at:
The commission asked several times if various testifiers would be submitting follow ups to them in writing based on what was said at the hearing. So it will take a few weeks for a decision unless there is a surprise. Now just stay tuned. There is a bill in the Montana legislature that would make it possible for Montana to buy NWEC if the deal falls through. So somebody is going to buy NWEC. It's a matter of who.
Going into closed session now. The guy from Australia has been patiently calming the waters, very collected and obviously knowledgeable about major aspects of the business globally and locally. He's actually doing better than the CEO of NWEC did yesterday. Hope the commissioners are tuned in. Looks like the hearing is going to drag into Monday as the financial officer from Australia is next, and he'll get grilled hard.
The AP put out another "sensationalist" headline grabber. They headlined the one guy that just spouted off, a sour grapes guy that couldn't raise the money to buy NWEC and make it a Montana co-op. Remember that ridiculous bid? Most of yesterday's testimony was reasoned, coherent, and followed logical trails of fact. That doesn't get AP any headlines, though, so... Good thing we can blog now so these media maulers don't control information anymore.
The commissioners just listened to opening statements from the lawyers representing various groups, and they are on potty break now, so here's a brief update. BBI has agreed to all conditions except the definition of "net earnings" vs. "free cash flow". The only lawyer speaking against the buyout said that he was going to raise objections during the hearings so that he could build a case for appeal. His big thing is the "public's right to know". Guess how far he'll get with that. He said that since he represents private business clients, if his clients got an offer from BBI, he'd sell out the public and take the money.
Now they are going to listen to experts instead of lawyers.
Now they're taking a lunch break...90 minutes. The lawyer that said he'd sell out the public for a deal got into a long winded questioning of the CEO (?) of NWEC, guy named Hansen. The commissioners asked him if he was going to take all day and cut him off. The lawyer sounded whiny and frustrated. He was trying to get the CEO to make a mis-statement about stuff that happened 5 years ago and the commissioners got fed up with him. I think the commisioners are going to come back with some conditions and approve the deal. Otherwise, they'd have let the opposition lawyer string out his questions.