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2020 PSC Race Energy Montana Politics

I am not an out-of-state or foreign interest, Brad Johnson

Montana Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson, one of the five Republicans on the commission, says we should be afraid, very afraid, of relying on renewables for our energy needs.

He has an opinion piece in the Missoulian touting fossil fuel power plants (although he never uses the term “fossil fuel,” instead its “baseload power”). He claims the push for renewable energy is coming from “outside interests.” From the guest column:

“Out-of-state and foreign interests are applying increased pressure on lawmakers, and consumers, to replace baseload power with wind, solar and geothermal sources.”

The folks I know advocating for clean energy are regular Montanans. I’m one of them and I’ve lived here for 54 years.

Johnson is known for rolling over for Northwestern Energy, as he did at the last Montana legislative session during NWE’s effort to stick Montanans with dirty, outdated coal power. From MTN’s Mike Dennison:

Commission Chairman Brad Johnson, R-East Helena, said NorthWestern’s purchase of an additional 150 megawatts from Colstrip 4 would provide needed power for the company’s 360,000 Montana electric customers and insulate the plant from political forces trying to shut down the coal-fired power generators.

The PSC has also stymied net metering, and decent contracts for wind and solar facilities.

Here’s some more gobbledygook from Johnson:

“To have a decipherable path toward a sustainable energy future, we need to appreciate the business concept of scale. If we cannot scale, we will fail.”

Hey, commissioner, not exactly sure what you mean here but that’s what we want, too — a sustainable energy future. We want clean, affordable energy and to leave a decent planet for our kids and grandkids.

Other states are doing it. Pressure from businesses and the legislature is driving the monopoly energy producer in Nevada to double its renewable energy output by 2023. Our neighbors to the West — Washington, Oregon and even Idaho — have substantial renewable energy portfolios.

There’s another silver lining to this story. While, unfortunately, Brad Johnson is not up for re-election in 2020, three of the other five seats are in play. And two of those seats are held by commissioners who are termed out. Here’s a recap. Vote as if life as we know it on this planet depends on it.

UPDATE: As today’s Montana Free Press reports, a district court judge ruled that the PSC favors fossil fuels over renewables. Judge Manley finds that numerous op-eds from the commissioners in Montana newspapers promoted coal, and slighted solar and wind.


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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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