On the issues
How would you assess the performance of the current Public Service Commission?
To put it nicely, I would say there is plenty of room for improvement.
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?
Objective thinking, deep study, and critical analysis are strong points for me. During my career I have spearheaded multiple legal and finance projects, worked extensively with project engineers, and represented small towns and citizen's organizations in hydro-electric relicensing proceedings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. As a lawmaker in the Montana Senate these past eight years, I served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which addresses complex legal matters and contract law. I also served on the legislative interim committee with direct oversight of the legal team assigned to PSC-related functions. My experience has equipped me with a firm, well-rounded understanding of legal and financial processes, constitutional law, sound business practices, and sustainable economic principles.
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?
Hospitals are in a unique position to price-gouge customers, and for that reason I do believe the possibility of bringing them under enhanced citizen-driven oversight should be considered. In order to lower the cost of health care, it is vital that fraud, waste, and abuse within the medical industrial complex is stopped and that tort reform is enacted to protect health care providers against unwarranted litigation. At the same time we must be very careful not to add unnecessary layers of bureaucracy to a system that is already overburdened by it.
Do you think the current Public Service Commission has placed appropriate weight on climate change considerations?
I am not sure of all that the current commission has done on this subject, but I do believe that many climate change arguments have been plagued by junk science and unnecessarily politicized. It would be nice to take the politics out of it and look at the facts. It is important to have reliable, cost-effective energy sources and to have clean air and water too. What I don't like to see is government siding with one industry over another. All options should be allowed to compete and prove their viability. Environmental regulation should ensure they can do so responsibly, but should not be used as a weapon to kill one industry just so another one can gain an unfair advantage.
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?
Whether it is an appropriate level or not I can not say, but I do believe the current commission has done quite a bit in this regard.
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