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NorthWestern Energy Submits Natural Gas General Rate Case Filing to the Montana Public Service Commission

BUTTE, Mont., Oct. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- NorthWestern Corporation d/b/a NorthWestern Energy (NYSE:NWE) today filed with the Montana Public Service Commission (MPSC) a request to adjust natural gas rates to account for investments in its natural gas transmission, distribution and storage systems and to implement pipeline integrity and infrastructure improvements, as well as cover increased expenses.

"NorthWestern Energy is dedicated to operating a safe, reliable natural gas system in Montana and that requires ongoing investment in infrastructure replacements. We also enthusiastically embrace compliance with pipeline safety regulations that have been put in place over the past few years that are intended to make our system that much safer," said Bob Rowe, President and CEO. "We understand that customers don't appreciate rate increases and we empathize with those customers who are struggling to make ends meet, however, everyone benefits from a safe, well maintained natural gas system."

Since 2009, NorthWestern Energy and its shareholders have invested approximately $68 million in capital improvements to add or replace infrastructure and maintain compliance with pipeline safety regulations associated with its storage, transmission and distribution systems.

Routine operations and maintenance costs have continued to increase during this period while usage has remained flat due to a variety of factors including weather, economic conditions and a general trend toward efficiency improvements. As a result, NorthWestern Energy is seeking an additional $15.7 million in annual revenue at a total authorized Rate of Return of 7.8% and Cost of Equity of 10.5%.

If approved by the MPSC, this request would result in a monthly increase of $5.69 or 7.17% for a residential customer using 100 therms of natural gas; however, the actual amount varies for individual customers depending on the amount of natural gas used.

If approved, this would be the first increase in regulated natural gas transmission and distribution rates since January 1, 2008; rates decreased by $1 million in 2011. Because natural gas supply rates have declined significantly and are expected to remain relatively low for the foreseeable future, total natural gas bills for an average customer would still be well below the average over the last ten years. If approved, the typical monthly residential natural gas bill would be $85.10 which is still much lower than the ten-year average of $99.82.

"Natural gas continues to be a great value," added Rowe. "We're delivering a highly efficient fuel that provides families with safe, reliable comfort on a cold winter day at an average monthly cost that is often lower than another common household expense – bundled cable/Internet and wireless bills."

The company has also submitted an interim rate request of $13.6 million pending the final order. Rates do not change until approved by the PSC. This rate request does not include or reflect natural gas supply costs. Those rates are adjusted through a separate regulatory process and will continue to change on a monthly basis.

The filings, including supporting documents, are posted on our website. Please visit www.northwesternenergy.com.

About NorthWestern Energy
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 668,300 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at www.northwesternenergy.com.

SOURCE NorthWestern Corporation