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Candidate Questionnaires
The latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news.

Valerie McMurtry: 2020 General Election Q&A

Valerie McMurtry is the 2020 Democratic candidate for public service commissioner region 2.
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Valerie McMurtry is the 2020 Democratic candidate for public service commissioner region 2.

Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.

Valerie McMurtry is the 2020 Democratic candidate for public service commissioner region 2.

What makes you the best candidate to represent your region on the Public Service Commission and how do you stand out from your opponent(s)?

I believe that I will best serve the voters of PSC District 2 because I will show up at meetings and represent the ratepayers on the Public Service Commission. I will put the Public back in the PSC. The current commissioners have been a rubber stamp to rate increase requests by NorthWest Energy and that is wrong. It is not called the Corporate Service Commission.

My opponent is guilty of 3 campaign ethics violations. When you run for an elected office, it is inherent for the candidate to know Montana campaign laws. He has made no apology for these infractions of Montana law. He has tried to dismiss these infractions as if they were no big deal. He Broke Montana campaign laws.

The Montana State Supreme Court has ruled against the PSC two times in the past month because they illegally disregarded solar energy proposals. These lawsuits were costly and unnecessary for Montana. That will not happen when I am on the commission. There was another lawsuit the PSC lost recently that involved public documents that the PSC did not want to be released. My opponent did not speak up to try to prevent this frivolous and wasteful lawsuit. He could have and he should have. All three cost the taxpayer, and my opponent did not even attempt to prevent any of them. This will not happen when I am commissioner.

What experience do you have in understanding the policy and regulation of electric, natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunication industries?

Since I first began considering running for the PSC, I have talked to legislators, professionals, and workers in the energy sector to educate myself and understand the issues that face the PSC. I have focused on the electrical utilities, NorthWest Energy and coal, because these have been the most controversial, especially as they involve the PSC. I have met with state Senator Mary McNally, who is on the legislative energy committee, many times to discuss the energy issues that Montana is facing. I have talked to people from around the state about the PSC. I have spoken to former commissioners and even one who is still on the commission. They have all helped me understand the dynamics and the role of the PSC. 

What would be your top three goals as a public service commissioner and how would you accomplish them?

My top 3 goals on the Public Service Commission are: accountability, transparency and integrity. All three of these have been lacking as the PSC has been an embarrassing display of chaos and dysfunction for the past two years. Last spring the Billings Gazette actually called for the PSC to be dissolved due to the bad behavior of the commissioners. I will return professionalism to the commission. I will show up at the meetings. This is a full-time, highly compensated position and it is not enough to stay home and call in your vote. The voters deserve a full time commissioner. I will be that commissioner.

What authorities of a public service commissioner do you believe should be used more or less than previous commissioners? Please provide specific examples.

I'm not quite sure I understand the question. The authority of the PSC is a regulatory one and not legislative. It is to protect the ratepayer from unnecessary and unfair rate increases. That is not what has been happening. The current commissioners have abrogated this role, and if you are a customer of NorthWest Energy, you pay some of the highest rates in the northwest. The PSC also regulates water, waste water treatment, transportation and some telecommunications. There is a question about the PSC adding the internet to its jurisdiction, but that has yet to be decided.

What other issues are important to your campaign? (300 word limit)

The Public Service Commission District 2 includes ten counties in southeastern Montana. I have travelled to 9/10 counties with Carter being the only one that I have not been to, but there is still time if the weather holds out. I have made over 2000 calls and talked to voters in every county. I've had a booth at the Powder River and Fallon County Fairs, been to Big Horn Days, farmer's market in Miles City, Fourth of July in Red Lodge, Forsyth, Hysham, and even the American Legion in Terry. I met with the mayor of Colstrip, toured the Rosebud mine, and listened to concerns of Colstrip citizens. When I filed to run for this office, I made the commitment to travel to each county, meet and talk to the voters. I have talked to people about their water bill in the summer, the high cost of electricity and their disgust with the current PSC. When elected, I will show up at the meetings, speak up for the ratepayers, stand up to corporations, ask questions and demand justification before allowing rate increases on any utility. I will bring dignity and respect back to this important agency. I will put the Public back in the PSC.