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Settlement talks in progress

By Matthew Brown

Helena Independent Record


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Opposing sides in the bankruptcy case of a Montana power cooperative are negotiating a potential settlement after some creditors balked at a proposed reorganization plan that would keep the co-op together but repay them only a little of the money owed.
Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative serves more than 11,000 customers in central and eastern Montana. It fell into bankruptcy in October 2011, after getting locked into unfavorable contracts and building a gas power plant near Great Falls that has sat idle.
The co-op reached an earlier settlement in March with the banks that funded the gas plant. That deal calls for Southern Montana to stay together — with customer power rates held at current levels — and for the banks to be repaid $22 million out of $85 million in loans for the Highwood gas plant.
PPL Energy and some other parties in the case filed objections with the court last week saying that liquidating the co-op is preferable. More than $390 million in claims from those creditors are classified as unsecured, meaning there is no collateral such as the gas plant to ensure they get repaid.

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