HELENA, Mont. -

NorthWestern Energy Vice President John Hines is urging the Public Service Commission to approve his company's $900 million purchase 11 hydroelectric dams in Montana.

Hines is the first of 18 people scneduled to testify in the PSC hearing on whether the deal is in the public interest.

He said Tuesday that NorthWestern has a great need for energy and buying the dams would provide stable electricity bills for consumers in the future.

Bob Nelson of the Montana Consumer Counsel says that while stable rates are a worthy goal, the costs predicted by NorthWestern might be too optimistic.

NorthWestern announced the deal with current owner PPL Montana last year. The PSC must give its approval for the sale to move forward.

The PSC has set aside two weeks for the hearing.