Distorting PSC’s record is a disservice to consumers


As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

Caron Cooper, the independent candidate for the District 3 seat on the Montana Public Service Commission, apparently thinks it prudent to create her own facts.

Cooper has repeatedly claimed over the past month that residential electricity rates in Montana have increased 15 percent in the last four years. This is false.

According to utility bill data, the average residential electricity rate for NorthWestern Energy’s customers in Montana — the vast majority of electricity customers in the state regulated by the PSC — have increased 2.6 percent (adjusted for inflation) since January 2013. This increase was largely due to NorthWestern Energy’s acquisition of 11 hydro-electric dams in 2014. The purchase price of the dams was actually higher due to the zero-carbon emitting nature of the generators.

Cooper has also criticized commission action in recent months to prevent consumers from paying for overpriced solar energy. The current commission is very much pro-renewable, but not if ratepayers are harmed in the process.

If elected to the commission, Cooper clearly will have a tough time reconciling her “develop renewables at any cost” mentality with her claimed desire to protect ratepayers.

For someone running for the Public Service Commission, Cooper has shown a surprising lack of knowledge of the subject matter she will be working on. She appears driven by an ideological urge to support green energy at any cost to ratepayers; a dangerous characteristic in a PSC commissioner. I encourage Cooper to spend more time researching the subject matter that she will be working on if elected. And if she still feels it necessary to shun objectivity in favor of ideological pursuits, then I encourage her to rethink her fitness to serve on the PSC.

Brad Johnson, Chairman
Montana Public Service Commission