PSC District 3 primary candidates weigh in on the race

Posted at 10:40 AM, May 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-31 12:40:59-04

From the time you turn on the lights in the morning and plug your phone in at night, you’re relying on utility services.

Which is why the Public Service Commission has such an important job: protecting Montana ratepayers.

Jim Brown is a lawyer from Dillon. He hopes to be the Republican candidate to replace Roger Koopman, who’s termed out.

“People would really like to see a fair playing field for independent operators, energy operators, like wind farms or solar, and certainly I’ve heard from folks, a lot of folks in Gallatin County who want to go to having private solar be able to sell the excess generation to Northwestern Energy,” said Brown. “Those would be some of the issues that have been brought up and they’re all legitimate issues.”

Montana State University Engineering Professor Alan George is running against Brown in the Republican primary. He says the infighting within the PSC needs to stop.

“A major current challenge on the commission is obvious personal conflicts between the commissioners and I would like to see that end, and I would work towards ending those conflicts so that maximum professional effort could be expended on the duties that they are legally mandated to perform,” said George.

That’s something his opponent agrees with.

But George touts his technical background and sees it as an asset for the Commission.

Tom Woods is a state representative and physics professor at MSU and is running uncontested in the primary as a Democrat.

Woods says his technical and policy experience makes him stand out.

“It’s always a challenge to work with other people; let’s face it, it’s always a challenge. But I know some folks on the commission right now, I know most of the commission who are running for the other seats,” said Woods.

“Being in the legislature and being in the minority, you have to learn how to work with other people, and so I feel like I have some experience doing that."

The primary election is on June 2.

Just as a reminder, it’s an all-mail-in election, but you can drop off your ballot at a number of polling stations by 8 p.m. on Election Day.