Eastern Montanans Wondering Why the Public Service Commission is Ignoring Public Opinion

Tom Halvorson

Tom Halvorson (Sidney) serves as the civil attorney on the behest of the Richland County commissioners (located in Eastern Montana). Frustrated that it seems that some on the Public Service Commission are ignoring overwhelming public sentiment regarding the closure of the Montana-Dakota Utilities’ Lewis & Clark Station in Sidney, Halvorson wrote a particularly poignant post on his own online publication.

According to Halvorson, PSC Commissioner Randy Pinocci is the only PSC commissioner who has dutifully listened to the public comment provided by the Richland County Commissioners, Duane Mitchell, Loren Young, and Shane Gorder (pictured above, left to right). Particularly troubling is Halvorson’s claim that one PSC commissioner has complained about letting citizens appear before them to give comment on the closure.

Randi Pinocci held a public comment hearing on the plant closure on April 25 of 2019, another was held at the ag experiment station in July of 2019, a letter of questions and comments were provided by the Richland County commissioners that resulted in a public comment hearing in October of 2019, and most recently there was a public hearing session on February 25 of this year.

Halvorson asked on his blog, “What has all this voluminous public comment changed? Nothing. Why not? Because they have plugged their ears.”

According to Halvorson, it was troubled PSC Commissioner, Roger Koopman, who complained that Eastern Montana residents were voicing their concern. Koopman was reported by the Montana Daily Gazette as allegedly threatening to bring a firearm to the PSC offices and engaging in other kinds of erratic behavior. Commissioner Pinocci has been frantically scurrying to limit the state’s liability regarding Koopman’s behavior by requesting emails (which he did so through a legal process) that appear to be troubling.

Halvorson stated, “In emails on September 12 and 13, 2019, Public Service Commissioner Roger Koopman complained about us being allowed to appear and give public comment on the letter from our County Commissioners. He zeroed in on the fact that others, like MDU, are parties to their case before the PSC, but none of us in Richland County were parties.”

He continued, “As Americans and Montanans, we have the right to citizen participation in the operation of governmental agencies. We have the right to open government, not a closed government denying public comment, not a government complaining about public comment, and not a government of plugged ears.”

The potential closure of the Lewis & Clark Station has ramifications – many of them negative – for the people of Richland County. According to Tom Halvorson, the people of Richland County only want to be heard and their opinions considered.


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