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2024 Montana Primary elections
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Q&A: Brad Molnar, Republican Candidate for PSC District 2

Brad Molnar

We are gathering information from all statewide candidates as a resource for the 2024 Primary Elections. Responses were limited to 200 words per question. Political attacks may have been removed, but otherwise, the responses are published unedited.


What is your full name as it will appear on ballots? 

Brad Molnar

What is your age? 

74

Where do you live? 

Laurel, MT

What is your education background? 

Studied Forestry and Journalism at U of M Missoula.

Please list your current and previous occupations. 

State Senator, Buy and Sell Gov't surplus vehicles. Public Service Commissioner (8) years. Owner design / build grain storage facilities for 33 years.

What motivated you to seek a seat on the Public Service Commission? 

This is my passion. I am giving up my Senate seat to get back on the Commission. The availability of affordable and reliable energy is the largest challenge between now and 2030. According to an intercepted email NWE wants to be 80% net carbon neutral by 2030, then 100% net carbon neutral by 2045. [EDITOR'S NOTE: According to NorthWestern Energy the company is "committing to achieve carbon neutrality in our electric and natural gas operations by 2050 – net zero carbon and methane emissions."] This will cost $billions without a measureable difference. This is the fight I want to be in and use my experience to win. I have 8 years on the commission. And I have on point legislative experience ie Energy advisor to the Speaker, served on the Energy and Tax committees (twenty percent of the last increase was property taxes), and on the Energy and Consumer Council Interim Committees. I was twice a "Citizen Intervener" on recent PSC agendas ie “Colstrip for a Dollar” and the NWE gas plant west of Billings. I will be the most qualified and experienced commissioner on the commission if I win.

What are your top three priorities for the Public Service Commission and how would you focus on these in your role? 

(1) Accomplish a reduced dependence on utility reported interplay concerning their regional market-generation pursuits. (2) Eliminate non-responsive bickering over questions during the intervener part of proceedings. This would shorten the process and reduce costs for participants. (3) Educate the public as to the true impetus of costs in their bills Ie taxes and judicial/legislative (Fed and state) interventions, and an ill-liquid energy market.

Do you think the PSC has a role in addressing climate change and, if so, what is it?  

Montana statute does not allow for externalities being considered by the Mt PSC. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The Public Service Commission at the time of this post was reviewing a petition for rulemaking changes regarding the consideration of climate change. According to Montana Code Annotated, the commission "May adopt rules providing guidelines to be used in preparing a plan and identifying the criteria to be used in determining cost-effectiveness" and "The criteria may include externalities associated with the acquisition of a resource by a public utility."] So, we are not allowed to "promote" one form of generation/fuel over another. Each has to prove their worth, in a contested proceeding, to provide an affordable and reliable energy outcome.

What does effective regulation of the state’s monopoly utilities look like? 

We need orders based on a fully developed record that is not skewed by biased commissioners, part time commissioners, or by judicial opinions.

A utility must be allowed the money provided for by law (not more) and their activities regulated so that consumers enjoy pricing as if there was competition. Families and employers should not be put at risk by the demands of unelected NGO’s.

If elected, how would you work to provide more affordable electricity for Montana residents and small businesses?

This is best accomplished well in advance of rate hearings. Examples: My drafting HB 640 in 2001 stopped massive Montana rate increases caused by energy deregulation in California and market manipulation by Enron.

In 2009 I worked with legislators to squash HB 641. Heavy “conservation penalties” would have been paid even by co-op members.

My legislation to keep CU4 from becoming a stranded cost was to protect consumers from these costs showing up in a rate case.

Federal dams generate electricity using Montana water without compensation to Montanans. Much of this electricity is sold out of state. I will use the PSC legal team to challenge this. Proceeds can reduce the 95 mils tax and electricity rates. This is in line with the Mt. Constitution and our Enabling Act.

If debilitating court rulings stand I will continue moving forward to enable captive customers under NWE to vote to become a recognized co-op. If successful we could petition the BPA for power to augment our current generation. This must be accomplished by voluntary acquisition. This may not be a logical avenue for MDU customers at this time due to MDU’s membership in MISO.

What can commissioners do to build public trust and transparency in the PSC’s work? 

This is a question for all levels and forms of government. Closed meetings should only be used to protect individual privacy concerns as protected under Art 2 Sec 10 of the Montana Constitution.

There should not be a requirement to go thru a lengthy and expensive process to access garden variety gov’t information. Of paramount importance Commissioners and staff should maintain a professional posture at all times.

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