On the issues
How would you assess the performance of the current Public Service Commission?
In spite of the negative public attention from infighting, overall the PSC has been doing a good job, particularly the term limited member that I hope to replace, Bob Lake. The public bickering needs to stop. Commissioners should focus on the job to be done and not on personal differences or personality clashes.
Utility regulation is highly technical work that involves complex legal and engineering issues. What experience do you have that makes you confident you’ll be able to effectively parse detailed briefing materials and fairly evaluate competing arguments from business representatives and environmental advocates?
The PSC website states, "The process of setting utility rates is somewhat like the process a banker uses in making a business loan." I have worked as a banker making loans. Additionally, I have navigated submarines, which requires calm pragmatism, worked as a public accountant, served on the Appropriations Committee for two terms while in the Legislature, and I hold a BS in accounting and finance from the University of Montana. My education and experience make me the most qualified candidate in this race.
In addition to energy companies, the PSC regulates telephone companies, garbage haulers and passenger motor carriers. There has been some discussion in recent years about adding hospital oversight to the commission’s responsibilities as well. Do you think the PSC has appropriate regulatory scope?
Yes. The PSC regulates businesses that otherwise could be monopolies and services that are necessities. Hospitals, in my view, are in this scope.
Do you think the current Public Service Commission has placed appropriate weight on climate change considerations?
Some people misunderstand the role of the PSC. The PSC must follow the energy policies as set by the federal and state governments, and the board should not be driven by political ideology. It is not the job of the commissioners to set their own policies. Attempting to do so can result in lawsuits that waste taxpayers' money.
Do you think the current Public Service Commission has placed appropriate weight on preserving the economic benefits of coal generating plants in Colstrip and Sidney?
Yes, but the consumer must come first. One of the jobs of the PSC is to ensure that ratepayers continue to have utility services that are affordable, reliable and sustainable for the long term. That is what I plan to do as commissioner.
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