Experienced Tranel best pick for Montana Public Service Commission
Guest column

Experienced Tranel best pick for Montana Public Service Commission


We are writing to enthusiastically endorse Monica Tranel to represent District 4 on the Montana Public Service Commission. The reason is simple. She is the only candidate, from either party, with relevant experience and direct knowledge of the inner workings of the PSC. Experience matters in this job.

The most import aspect of being a public service commissioner comes during rate cases, which usually start when a utility proposes to increase rates in a filing before the PSC that proceeds much like a court case. Commissioners sit as judges during these rate cases, the outcome of which affects all the customers of the utility. In the case of Northwestern Energy, that means upwards of 300,000 Montana customers. During a contested rate case, parties like the Consumer Counsel, low-income groups, large industrial customers and conservation groups can intervene in the case to represent the interests of these organizations.

Handling these rate cases is complicated. It requires knowledge about the utility industry, law, economics and finances. The information is technical and voluminous. It’s not a flashy public process and is only covered in the media when there is some unusual circumstance or when the final decision in the case is made. This is precisely why we support Tranel. She comes with a relevant background and thorough understanding of all these things.

Tranel is a common-sense attorney with years of experience in utility matters who has represented numerous clean energy clients in cases before the Commission. These renewable energy companies have been at odds with Northwestern Energy for years — the utility has stymied most efforts to bring clean energy on board its portfolio.

If you have been following the shenanigans of the current commission, you know it is paralyzed by the personal peccadilloes of the current crop of all-Republican commissioners who are spending all of their time in-fighting rather than advancing clean energy and protecting consumers from the ravages of coal-based generation.

Tranel understands that Montana is at a crossroads. The choice before us is simple. Either we stay anchored in the past, relying on fossil fuels which are expensive, antiquated and foul our air and water, or we embrace the future by promoting energy efficiency and taking advantage of new renewable technology. It may seem like an obvious choice to most of us, but Northwestern Energy, the current Public Service Commission, and most of the Republican led legislature seem determined to keep us tied to polluting, expensive old coal plants. It’s bad economics, it’s bad business, but most of all, it’s bad for our environment and our future.

Tranel is ready to go to work on these complicated issues right now. She knows the law, she understands the utility industry and, most important, she knows what is at stake. If you want to see a cleaner, more efficient future in our energy sector, Tranel is the best choice for the Montana PSC. Please join us in voting for her in the June 2 primary.

Gail Gutsche served as public service commissioner for District 4 from 2008-2012. She also served in the Montana House of Representatives and was vice chair of the House Natural Resource Committee.

Ken Toole served as public service commissioner for District 5 From 2006-2010. He served in the Montana Senate and was chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

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