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PSC Examines Who's Responsible For Rail Safety In Montana

Train near Essex, MT.

A legislative audit released last year had Montana’s Public Service Commission examining today whether it should be responsible for railroad safety in the state.

PSC Commissioner Roger Koopman acknowledged some truth in the audit’s findings that the PSC does not have adequate safety inspector coverage for the state and has not been actively pursuing rail safety.

"Well that’s true, we haven’t. And that’s one of the reasons we’re here today to talk about whether we’re the ones that should be."

Several commissioners on the PSC board raised questions about the PSC being the right agency to take on railroad safety reform.

Here’s Chairman Brad Johnson:

"When you look at the mission of the Montana Public Service Commission today, you have to be pretty creative to find a natural fit for safety enforcement."

Johnson said questions of railroad safety falling on the PSC are a remnant of PSC’s past. It was formed in the 1970s from the Board of Railroad Commissioners.

"I think that this is the vestige of that history."

If the PSC does decide this is a question for another state agency, that request will have to be made to the legislature next year.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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