©2015 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

As expected, the CSKT Tribal Council “voted” not to make any in-lieu tax payments  to Lake County in their first act as the only shareholder of a so-called “publicly responsible” federally charted corporation and owner-operator of Kerr Dam.  Those would be the same taxes that support the education of all the children–including their own; and other vital community services provided by the county.

Now bear in mind that this tribe has pushed the public aside on Kerr Dam even as far back as 1985, and has bragged incessantly and recently that they are totally capable of handling Kerr Dam, would be generous and good neighbors, are operating at the highest business standards, and that “nothing would change” with Kerr Dam operations. They asked the public to just trust them.

Yet when the Public Service Commission, Senators Verdell Jackson and Bob Keenan, and the Montana Land and Water Alliance requested information about their corporation and capabilities,  through substantive questions in perfectly legal and proper intervention proceedings, something did change.  Suddenly the Tribe was “offended” that they were even asked questions about their capabilities and operations, and in every case, insisted that as a “sovereign government” they didn’t have to provide any information. And just as suddenly, they “voted” to not pay their share of in-lieu tax payments (PILT) as any other federal entity would have as a matter of practice and policy, or any private corporation would have under state law.

The CSKT  Tribal Council is the only shareholder in Energy Keepers, Inc., and is prohibited from acting as a political entity when it considers matters of the corporation EKI which operates the facility and markets the power produced from Kerr.

Starting off on the Wrong Foot

They made their first mistake on Friday, October 9, 2015 by giving away entirely their political intentions, tools, and tricks.  From this article:

This investment marks uncharted territory in the business world for CSKT,” the Tribal Council said in a statement, “and like any new business owner, CSKT remains cautious in committing financial resources in a depressed energy market.

This statement conveys that the CSKT, as an inexperienced shareholder, acted politically as a Tribal Council and used potentially faulty information to support its reason for denying in-lieu tax payments.  For example:

  • First, and incredulously, after whining around using the “Tribal Status” to beat their chest in being fully independent and sovereign, now they aren’t so sure about where they’re going?  They’re cautious after everyone and their brother has been asking them for assurances that they know what they’re doing?  The Tribes with the federal agencies assistance, have “puffed themselves up” to have more status and experience than they legally and practically do.
  • Second, and equally non-believable, the Tribe is “cautious” about committing any part of the expected $40 million dollars generated in one year alone from Kerr in a “depressed energy market”?  When they will pay off the bargain price of $18 million for Kerr Dam  from profits in one year for a hydropower facility actually valued at near $300 million dollars?

A depressed energy market?  Huh? When they just raised the electric rates in Mission Valley Power? When the facts clearly demonstrate that the market for hydropower from the Northwestern U.S. is not being described as “depressed”?  When the Tribe can market their energy anywhere to the highest bidder, and not necessarily locally?

Did they mean depressed hydropower energy market because of low stream flows coupled with Tribal  instream flow requirements and environmental regulations for Flathead Lake and the Flathead River? Or  that other types of energy are making more money than they will?  What justified this hasty and political action on the part of the CSKT ?

Shining the Light through Intervention

This kind of mistake by the CSKT Tribal Council–acting politically as a government, not shareholder, on misleading or faulty information– and the mistake of federal government for not providing effective supervision,  is precisely why all the interveners wanted to have this license transfer to the EKI/CSKT examined and the license conditioned by the public and Montana regulators. Multiple interveners suggested that Congress also be involved so as to ensure the protection of the public interest.

With their first decision to deny in-lieu tax payments based on political objectives and misleading or faulty information, the objective appears to be that the CSKT can and will use their ownership of a key hydropower facility to exact any price on the local community.  This is a political corporation, not a government- and it is unregulated by either the state or federal government.  The corporation is probably helping the latter by proxy.