The Montana Post Endorsement: Monica Tranel is the Clear Choice for PSC District 4

Image from candidate web site

The Montana Public Service Commission is the most broken institution in Montana today. Rather than fulfilling its constitutional obligation to serve the people of the state, the body has become such a dysfunctional mess that the Billings Gazette called for it to be abolished, and someone like Roger Koopman sounds like a relative voice of reason in its deliberations.

The members treat this critical institution and their high-paying jobs like expensive jokes, stealing each other’s e-mails, refusing to attend meetings, being woefully underprepared and plainly ignorant, all in the service of giving monopoly energy producers free rein to do almost whatever they please in secrecy.

What the body needs most is an adult, a professional who understands the regulatory issues and energy needs of the people of the state, someone who will protect Montana’s environment and the ratepayers.

In Public Service Commission District 4, that candidate is Monical Tranel, and we enthusiastically endorse her candidacy to restore both the public and service to the PSC.

In our interview with Tranel, it soon became apparent that she has an unmatched depth of understanding of the issues facing the PSC. Perhaps if she were running for another commission, this would not be such a distinguishing point, but we understand that if Tranel is elected, she will do what a commissioner must: read and study the briefs and regulations before making decisions. She will bring competence, professionalism, and over two decades of experience working at the commission to its critical regulatory decisions.

We were also heartened that Tranel understands the need to act immediately to begin to combat climate change because “the science demands a response.”

She also seems to understand the moment we are in, noting that our institutions are dangerously threatened by the combination of corporate influence and a gradual undermining of government. Tranel is absolutely right that the institutions and norms that govern policy are being dangerously undermined today, to the detriment of the public good and our very faith that government can effectively function.

Because we agree with Tranel that what the PSC most needs is a commissioner who respects science, the proper functioning of government, and substance over spectacle, we enthusiastically recommend her for PSC District 4.

Our praise for Tranel is not intended to convey a slight to her primary opponent, Daniel Carlino.

We liked Carlino when we interviewed him for our podcast. We admire his passion for climate change and for communities that seem to disproportionately bear the costs of poor industrial and energy policy. His is an important voice we hope to hear more from as we continue the urgent conversation about the health of the planet and those who live on it.

While we appreciate Carlino’s positions, we do hope that he will gain more experience before he considers a position like the PSC. It’s a very technical regulatory body, and many of the ideas Carlino supports—public ownership of the utilities, banning fracking, and ending the digital divide in Montana’s underserved communities—are better suited to legislative, not regulatory bodies.

We hope to hear more from Mr. Carlino, both as an activist and candidate. We appreciate his strong demands for climate justice and hope to see and hear more from him at the PSC and other bodies over the next few years.

What the PSC needs most now, though, is the influence of someone who can best combine experience with its arcane technical regulations with an understanding that the body must serve the public.

That candidate is Monica Tranel, and we hope you will give her your support in the Democratic primary.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

9 Comments

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  • You should specify which of the PSC districts Monica is running in. There are five. I assume she’s in the Helena district?
    The trouble here is that several years ago, Fred Thomas of Stevensville, who sponsored the 1997 deregulation act at the behest of Montana Power and Enron, passed a bill that gerrymandered all the PSC districts into bulletproof GOP. That’s why it is highly unlikely that a Democrat will ever hold a seat on the PSC, let alone hold the majority. That’s why they can do whatever they want. It’s a one-party commission now, and possibly til the end of time.

  • I think Carlino is like Tom Winter. New to Montana and no realistic prior experience. I think the Post likes Winter for his enthusiasm. I like Carlino
    for his vitality and optimism. Call me impractical, but I would like to see a surprise
    upset with Daniel leading the charge.

    • Carlino didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election as a Florida resident. I have no faith in a public servant who does not take his most solemn obligation as seriously as all Americans should. Not voting is how you get Donald Trump as president. It is not just a neutral act – it is a show of petulance that reinforces the cynicism that has polluted politics generally. If Carlino doesn’t get his way on the PSC (and with those extreme ideas on a Republican governing body, he won’t), is he going to take his ball and go home again?

  • Four new fracked gas plants here we come! More condoning racism and corporate greed with political compliance & “free market principles” ?

    The Montana Post “Consolidating Centrist Power in the Big Sky”

    • How do you think democrats will take power in the state if all of them are running from the far left? I await your detailed response, and please do not use the words “revolution” or “establishment” when doing so.

  • Great to see the Montana Post endorsing a professional and experienced candidate who will be an independent voice for Montanans!

  • Yes! The PSC needs Monica Tranel’s smart, informed voice to fight for a clean energy future for all Montanans.

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