The Montana Public Service Commission consists of five commissioners whose responsibility is to regulate public utilities. By state law, they generally have authority over public or private businesses that operate any plant, equipment or water right to provide the public with heat; transportation service; light; power, water, sewer service and regulated telecommunications.
The commission’s duty is to ensure that Montana consumers can obtain reliable service at the least cost. Utilities also must receive a fair rate that allows them to make a profit and continue in business to provide reliable service.
So the choice of PSC members is important to all Montanans who pay utility bills.
The PSC works with cases that are complex because of the nature of calculating rates and expenses and applying state regulations. Utility companies do their best to present their rate cases. The PSC must have the best public representatives to balance the important business and consumer interests in rate-setting decisions.
That’s why Chuck Tooley is the best candidate running in the PSC district covering Yellowstone County and southeastern Montana. Tooley has 15 years of experience in city government and has presided over countless public hearings and meetings. In all those years of community service, Tooley established a reputation for reliably ensuring fair, respectful dialogue when he presided.
The city of Billings also is a utility operator that supplies water and sewer service to 30,000 residential and commercial customers, mostly within the city limits. As mayor and council member, Tooley was responsible for reviewing and setting those utility rates, which must be justified by costs that actually run those departments. Billings sewer and water service is operated much like a business with fees for services and no tax support.
Earlier in his career, Tooley worked for a regulated phone company for several years. Before completing 10 years as Billings mayor, Tooley served on the Montana Electric and Gas Alliance with other Montana municipal and business leaders who studied in detail the power generation facilities that Montana Power Co. was offering for sale.
Tooley’s opponent in the District 2 PSC race, Kirk Bushman of Billings, has been a consulting engineer for various industries. He has not previously served in public office.
PSC District 2 covers 10 counties: Yellowstone, Carbon, Bighorn, Treasure, Rosebud, Prairie, Powder River, Custer, Fallon and Carter.
We know Tooley, we know his record of community service, his ability to bring people together to resolve public issues. We recommend that voters send Tooley to Helena to ensure that thoroughness, fairness, decorum and legally sound decision-making reign at the Public Service Commission.