As I travel around the District, visiting with people about the PSC, it surprises me the number of people who do not understand the role of the Commission. I think that in the past the Commission quietly went on their way, doing the work that was expected of them and very few people actually paid any attention to their actions. The actions of late, and the reports that sometimes have made headlines, have changed that. It has become a noticed office, and the public wants to understand their role in the State of Montana.
First let’s look at the role and authority of the office. The Public Service Commission has the responsibility of overseeing all of the public utilities in the state as well as monitoring the gas pipelines. It has rate making authority over public transportation, public water and sewer systems, some railroad rates and the delivery of natural gas and electricity by regulated providers. The Commission is responsible to the consumers for the reliability, the consistency and price of the provided service. Part of the required activity of the Commission is to allow the regulated provider a fair return on their investment in order to continue to provide the service to the consumer. The majority of the role of the Commission is to understand the balance sheets of the provider, to understand the costs of providing the service and then negotiating a price for the consumer that is at the lowest possible rate.
As your Public Service Commissioner, I will return to the role that is described. The Montana PSC must be dedicated to the job of securing for the public utility customer the absolutely lowest cost, consistently delivered, most reliable product available. Period.
The PSC is not a policy making board, that is the job of the Legislature where public hearings and debate should determine the direction of Montana energy supply and distribution.
A member of the Commission MUST NOT have any personal or ideological agenda that will influence their decisions.
I am and will be committed to a fair and above board analysis of the supplier costs and a hard-nosed negotiator for the benefit of the consumer.
The Public Service Commission does not have a role in determining the ownership of supplying providers, only the quality, reliability and sustainability of the service they provide.
It is not the role of the PSC to pick winners and losers, every supplier and every consumer must work with an identical set of rules.
The future of the Montana economy will be determined by the cost of energy and other public services. We will never return to a strong and vibrant economy if we continue to force either artificially required use of a particular power source or a taxing structure that unfairly benefits or penalizes a particular industry or product.
I want to see a Montana that has a strong, value added industrial base that will provide the jobs for our young people so they do not have to leave our state in order to achieve their life dreams. A strong economy will provide the revenue needed for a quality school system and the other infrastructure required to support and continue the growth.
My vision is no different than most other Montanans’, opportunity to succeed. We have a state that only needs to allow for that opportunity. The people of Montana will make it work. The Public Service Commission must be part of our future.