Use of N-word didn't cost PSC member Tony O'Donnell his national chairmanship

A Montana utility commissioner’s racially offensive remarks didn’t lead to his removal from the chairmanship from a national committee on clean coal and carbon management, contrary to rumors circulating in Helena.

Public Service Commissioner Tony O’Donnell had led a national committee of utility regulators focused on decarbonizing coal power, a transition considered critical for coal-fired power plants in Montana and elsewhere faced with restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. That chairmanship changed after the committee’s governing organization, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, got a new president.

Utility commissions balance the profit interests of monopoly utilities with the fair price interests of utility customers, who are captive, meaning they cannot  shop around for a better deal on the free market.

O’Donnell was out of the chairman’s seat and Wisconsin utility commissioner Ellen Nowak was in. In the past week, rumors have stirred among legislators that racially insensitive remarks cost O’Donnell the position. The two incidents, O’Donnell said, are unrelated.  

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