Montana's 2020 election
Montana's 2020 election
The Montana Free Press guide
Republican for Public Service Commission
Brown, of Dillon, operates a business law practice and lobbies for industry groups including the Montana Wool Growers Association, Solid Waste Contractors Association and Montana Funeral Directors Association.

Key coverage in the race for Public Service Commission

Race profile: Six candidates vie for three Public Service Commission seats

With one incumbent seeking reelection and two open seats, November's election will bring new leadership to the troubled regulatory agency at the heart of Montana’s energy politics
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Campaign finance

No campaign finance data compiled for this race at this time.

On the issues

Issue statements were solicited from active candidates via a written questionnaire before the June primary election. Answers were lightly edited for punctuation and spelling.

How would you assess the performance of the current Public Service Commission?

The current Commission suffers from what has commonly plagued the Commission for years. That is, the commissioners are allowing personality conflicts and personal grievances to overshadow their important regulatory duties. Further, the commission needs to better understand and comply with the “right to know” and “right to participate” clauses of the Montana Constitution.

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?

I have been a lawyer for 16 years. My legal practise consists of engaging in complex civil litigation and protecting constitutional rights. Therefore, I am uniquely qualified to meet the complex legal demands of this position. Further, unlike my opponents who are academics, I am a small business owner. Consequently, I inherently understand the business perspective in a way that none of my opponents do.

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?

The decision to add hospital oversight to the PSC's regulatory responsibilities is a legislative decision, and a legislative decision alone.

Do you think the current Public Service Commission has placed appropriate weight on climate change considerations?

The PSC works within the confines of the laws and regulations it is tasked with administering and overseeing. Climate change considerations are and should be given proper weight by serving commissioners within those legal confines.

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?

As a fourth-generation Montanan, I know and understand the investment those who live and work in Colstrip have made in their fine community and I personally identify with those rural Montana values. The role of the PSC is to protect the public interest and a PSC commissioner is to serve as a neutral judge on matters that come before the commission — according all due respect to the parties who appear before the commission. The economic benefit of coal generation, including coal generation at Colstrip, is a consideration for markets and public policy makers — the latter of which is not, in my view, the role of a commissioner.

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