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Letters: Montana PSC needs Tranel to regulate monopoly utilities

An issue that is under the Montana radar is the election of commissioners for the Public Service Commission. What is this PSC and what do they do?

First, it is the most important office you’ve never heard of. The role of the PSC is to regulate utilities that benefit all residents of  Montana to ensure that ratepayers have continued access to utility services that are affordable, reliable, and sustainable in the future.

Why is this necessary? The PSC regulates the rates and service quality for investor-owned electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, and legacy telecommunication companies. Though they differ in form and function, companies in these industries all have one thing in common—they are monopolies with a captive set of customers.

It’s the job of the PSC to balance the interests of ratepayers with the need to maintain a financially sound utility that is capable of providing reliable service. PSC District 4 includes Lincoln, Sanders, Mineral, Missoula, Powell, Granite, and Ravalli counties.

With over 100,000 residents in the district, the key to future stability, from climate to business, is a fair representative on the commission who understands the intricacies of the legal landscape and the utility business and can sift through the chaff offered up to obfuscate the true costs to provide service.

Currently, the commission has not done its job. One example, the commission allowed NorthWestern to purchase a share of Colstrip for $187 million and then allowed NorthWestern to value the same asset for $400 million and recover the difference–a huge windfall–from Montana taxpayers. Those who follow the PSC understand that the Commission has been a rubber stamp for these utility monopolies, not an advocate for Montana ratepayers.

It is for these reasons, that I fully endorse Monica Tranel to represent District 4. She has the experience as an attorney who has worked for the commission, argued cases before the State Supreme Court on behalf of Montana taxpayers, and won.  She was born and raised on a Montana ranch, a two-time Olympian, a mother, a practicing attorney in environmental law, and she lives and practices in Missoula.

Her expertise, her history of advocacy, and her success on behalf of Montanans make her the clear choice for District #4 Public Service Commissioner.

David R. James, Eureka