On the issues
How would you assess the performance of the current Public Service Commission?
Currently they are very disjointed, and don't seem to be consistent in their regulation. They also do a poor job at having public hearings in locations and at times that invite public participation.
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 currently serve as a councilman on the city council in Harlowton. I also chair the ordinance committee, where we are currently rewriting all the ordinances for the city. As such, I've been involved in legal and engineering issues, and happen to enjoy working through them. I also have a lot of background in power from my previous job experience at IBM. I am a solar and wind power fan, and an advocate of net metering.
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, I do, and I also believe the PSC can and should be involved in hospital oversight. I was an RCDD with BICSI for years, which means I designed, certified, and inspected telecom cable plans. I work in health care now. I grew up in a railroad town, and have always been a railroad buff. The PSC is, in fact, the agency that should be involved in the regulation of these industries at the state level.
Do you think the current Public Service Commission has placed appropriate weight on climate change considerations?
Yes. But to be clear, it is not the PSC that should be driving climate change initiatives. The PSC needs to regulate various industries with an eye toward environmental responsibility. An example would be sending the power plan back to NorthWest Energy to redo with consideration given to wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy (which is what they should have done).
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. Ideally, we would like to see those plants stay open but modified to emit less pollution, and not pollute the groundwater. In fact, the Sidney plant was in line to be modified before the decision was made to close it. There is a place for coal in our energy plan here in Montana, but the plants need to be cleaner, which will drive the price up, ultimately changing how it is currently used.
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