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Judge: Mont. power co-op likely can keep secrets

Matthew Brown, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- A federal judge says he's likely to let a bankrupt Montana power cooperative keep key details of its reorganization plan secret from the public despite objections.

The trustee for Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative wants a court order barring disclosure of how much it intends to pay for power under a tentative agreement with Morgan Stanley Capital Group.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher said Tuesday he was inclined to issue the order after Southern Montana trustee Lee Freeman testified that disclosure could drive up electricity prices.

Representatives of Beartooth Electric Cooperative argue consumers who ultimately pay for the power should know the agreement's terms.

Kirscher also said he would grant a motion for Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative to withdraw from Southern Montana, after the two sides settled a longstanding dispute.