No experience required, a $112,000 salary and few Eastern Montana candidates for PSC

One would think an Eastern Montana job that paid $112,444.80 a year, plus benefits, and required absolutely zero experience, would attract more than two applicants.

But only two candidates filed for District 1 public service commissioner this year. Because both are Republican, GOP voters in 22-county district will award the plum job June 7, either to challenger K. Webb Galbreath or incumbent Randy Pinocci.

PSC commissioner is a little-known job with big impact on Montanans’ household budgets, although in recent years commission scandals have attracted public and government scrutiny. Pinocci has played a role in those scandals, which Galbreath is quick to point out.

Commissioners are tasked with striking the balance between a consumer’s right to a reasonably priced, reliable service and a monopoly utility’s right to a fixed return on investment. Anyone who receives electric or gas service from a company other than a cooperative, pays monthly energy rates approved by the PSC.

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When it comes to inflation, such as the more than 40% increase in natural gas prices Montanans faced this winter, it’s the PSC that determines, on a monthly basis, that the increase is justified and that

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