Federal judge gives tentative approval to plan for bankrupt Montana electric cooperative

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BILLINGS, Montana — A federal judge has given tentative approval to a reorganization plan for a bankrupt Montana electric cooperative.

Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative fell into bankruptcy in 2011, after getting locked into unfavorable contracts and building a natural gas-fired power plant near Great Falls that has sat idle.

It serves more than 11,000 customers in central and eastern Montana.

Court records show U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher said Friday he intends to confirm a plan that would keep Southern Montana together for four years. The power plant would be sold by the banks that offered construction loans for the project.

Some of the cooperative's creditors had objected to the plan. Southern Montana manager Scott Sweeney says their concerns were resolved through a recent settlement. Details have not been released.

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