Gazette opinion: PSC’s try to skip open participation

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Montana’s Public Service Commission has a offer to revoke a open responsibility.

The elect has due to be authorised to approve application rate increases though giving a open notice of a rate boost and though holding a open hearing.

The PSC offer is House Bill 42, that would change benefaction law to concede a PSC to skip a requirement to announce a open conference on due rate increases in a ubiquitous dissemination newspaper, and to reason a hearing. HB42 would instead concede utilities to send any kind of created notice with customers’ bills observant they have a event for a rate hearing. If no patron requested a hearing, a PSC could approve a rate boost though holding a hearing.

Constitutional rights

This offer is antithetical to a right of open appearance guaranteed in Montana’s constitution. The structure does not need adults to ask their rights, they already have a right to participate. Furthermore, a right to attend is predicated on a right to be informed. Certainly, a business of a application have a approach seductiveness in prices they will pay. However, their neighbors, village leaders and businesses also have seductiveness in what utilities are charging. The open has an seductiveness in saying how a PSC is doing a pursuit that taxpayers are profitable them good to do.

At a conference before a House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Jan. 9, Public Service Commissioner Bob Lake regularly pronounced that HB2 would revoke costs for “small” utilities.

However, there is zero in a denunciation of HB42 that says it relates usually to “small” utilities. It apparently would request to even a state’s largest regulated utility, NorthWestern Energy.

Lake told a cabinet that open notice can be “a rubbish of resources” and that “sometimes there is no need to announce a specific time and place of a hearing.” He pronounced that business would be some-more expected to review a minute from their application than a journal notice.

Legislators’ questions

Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, questioned either direct-mail would be cheaper than a journal notice.

In response to a doubt from Rep. Tom Richmond, R-Billings, PSC staff profession Jason Brown pronounced HB42’s “notice” could be enclosed with a bill.

How many of us review each line on each square of paper in each application check we get?

The PSC poorly suggests that a public’s inherent right to know can be inspected by providing not a hearing, though usually a possibility to ask for a open hearing. The PSC poorly proposes to lessen a right to attend by requiring a open to know – though open notice — in allege that they or their neighbors are confronting a rate boost on a publicly regulated utility.

There are open hearings where no member of a open shows up. But that does not meant that a PSC can only skip a hearing. The PSC has a avocation to promulgate with, surprise and rivet a public. Sometimes that means people will uncover adult during a meeting; infrequently it means that people know what a PSC is doing and have no comment. The right to attend is a bed stone for building and progressing Montanans’ trust in their government.

We call on a House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee to mount adult for a public’s right to know. We ask a cabinet to bury HB42, a bad thought that was unprotected by this cabinet during a Jan. 9 open hearing.

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