On the issues
How would you assess the performance of the current Public Service Commission?
The current Public Service Commission is failing Montana ratepayers. The PSC has become subservient to NorthWestern Energy and its profit motives, regardless of the harm to our environment and utility bills. The PSC has allowed NorthWestern Energy to double its profits in the past five years by unfairly evaluating Colstrip and the dam purchases, guaranteeing NorthWestern Energy a much larger return on equity. We need new leadership on the PSC, commissioners who will stand up for Montana ratepayers against the monopolies’ interests every time.
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?
After working on political and environmental campaigns in Montana for the past four years, it has become clear to me that politicians have put the monopolies’ profits over what is best for everyday Montanans’ interests. I will be a strong, consistent voice and vote for the benefit of the working class, household ratepayers and frontline communities with every decision that the PSC has to make. With our team of PSC staff experts, I will ensure that we effectively parse the materials to ensure that we have an environmentally just and economically sound future for everyday Montanans. Most importantly, I am the only candidate who has the right vision to stop the fossil-fuel energy projects and create accessible, sustainable utilities for our low-income and rural communities.
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?
With poorly regulated utilities and other basic needs like health care, many Montanans are being left out from having these basic services. The PSC oversight should be expanded to ensure that every Montanan is getting fair treatment and adequate service. Health care and utilities like energy and water should be human rights, so PSC oversight should be expanded to cover all of these basic needs. Throughout this campaign, I have been an advocate for better recycling/composting programs and restoring passenger railroads. We need leaders on the PSC who are willing to lobby the Legislature to push these important policies forward. On the PSC, you can count on me to work with the Legislature and to put Montana household ratepayers first over the industry’s profits with every decision. This is how we can ensure that every Montanan has access to these essential services, regardless of their income.
Do you think the current Public Service Commission has placed appropriate weight on climate change considerations?
The PSC is the most important Montana body to take serious action in mitigating climate change. The current PSC has addressed the costs to the monopolies and costs to the ratepayers, but they have not adequately addressed the costs to our climate, environment, or public health in their decisions. While NorthWestern Energy’s greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to rise over the next 20 years, it is critical that we have Public Service commissioners who will reject the energy monopoly’s proposed investments in natural gas and coal power. I am proud to be the only candidate for PSC who is taking a stance against NorthWestern Energy’s plans to frack for four new natural gas plants in our beautiful state.
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?
Not only is coal-powered energy the worst for our climate, environment, and public health, but coal power is now the most expensive form of energy in Montana. The PSC has unfairly evaluated NorthWestern Energy’s stake in Colstrip Unit 4 in the past by giving NW Energy a $407 million evaluation on what they only paid $187 million for. Montanans have been bearing a much larger energy bill because of the horrible decisions that the PSC have made when evaluating coal generating plants. The PSC needs to reevaluate their decisions with Colstrip to give Montana ratepayers their money back.
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