Southern fast tracked, locals get involved

The Southern Montana Generation and Transmission Cooperative, Inc. (Southern) bankruptcy judge moved to fast track the proceedings for its proposed reorganization.

BEC Board member Arleen Boyd said on Tuesday, May 13, “Yesterday Judge Kirscher granted conditional approval of the disclosure statement. There still are technical and grammatical issues which Malcolm Goodrich (Southern’s attorney) felt were not significant, but Jonathan Alter from Prudential said he wanted to see all changes before agreeing to file.”

Boyd said the request sounded reasonable.

Boyd noted that member Bruce Austin spoke at the hearing. “He said that the actual value of the estate is not clear when so much was not defined and the money back and forth at Southern and SME was so murky. Also, that the Temple report raised many financial questions that were either not pursued or were pursued and not revealed.”

The judge said he would review Austin's standing to object (whether legally able to participate) and the merits of the objection and issue an opinion.

Austin and Goodrich discussed the matter at length after the court session.

Boyd reported that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher set June 2 for a confirmation hearing on a proposed plan that would restructure the co-op and its debt to noteholders.

The judge also conditionally approved an amended detailed report on Southern’s business organization, its bankruptcy filing and proposed reorganization. The required report is to provide parties with enough information from which they can make a decision about its reorganization proposal.

Ki r s che r gave c ondi t i onal approval after Goodrich of Billings, said some technical changes and corrections needed to be made to the amended report, known as a disclosure statement.

Bi l l ings at torney Mal colm Goodrich, asked for an accelerated schedule saying he is “extremely mindful” of costs and fees being accrued in the case. No one objected to the schedule.

While Southern and its noteholders, who are the secured creditors, have reached a settlement, Goodrich said he needs more time to try to reach agreements with other parties, including the unsecured creditors and PPL, which had contracted to provide power to Southern.

“Our goal is a fully-consented plan,” Goodrich said.

Kirscher said he appreciated the hard work of the parties. “I know we’ll come to a final product soon,” he said.

Boyd said, “Once the disclosure is approved, ballots may go out. The dates will be posted.” Boyd said she will confirm these dates on the following Monday. Boyd provided a tentative schedule:

May 13 — File the amended disclosure— Upon court approval (expected within a day or two thereafter), the ballots go out; May 20 — File plan supplement. This includes the HGS and Note documents; May 29 — Ballots are due back; May 30 -- Witness lists are issued; and June 3 —A hearing is scheduled on the confirmation (also Energy West).

Regarding the May 20 plan supplement she said, “We have made comments pertaining to these documents and the Southern board agreed to a question session this coming week.”

Boyd added, “The confirmation hearing may be in Billings— when we left the clerk was assigned the task of either scheduling in Billings if courtroom is available or Butte if not. There also was talk of June 2, so stay tuned.”

The following dates are now set for BEC town hall meetings:

Rapelje: May 15, Stockman Café; Reed Point: May 22, Reed Point Evangelical Church; Nye: May 28, Nye Fire Hall; Clark: June 23, Clark Pioneer Rec Center; Fromberg: June 24, Fromberg High School Gym; Absarokee: June 25, The Cobblestone School; Joliet: June 26, MSU Carbon County Extension Office; Red Lodge: June 30, Red Lodge Area Community Foundation Building.