The Montana Public Service Commission voted to grant L & L Site Services permission to haul trash in Missoula County. L & L will now join Republic Services as a garbage hauling company operating in the county.
Commissioner Roger Koopman, who represents PSC District 3, voted in favor of L & L. He said, "The law we are required to enforce puts a very heavy burden on any new company wanting to enter a monopolized trash hauler market. At the same time, regulators must be willing to view such cases through the lens of competition and freedom, and to take seriously the obvious public benefits of competition and choice over one-company protectionism. Here, the record indicated that L&L had satisfied this heavy burden. The Commission’s reversal of its earlier ruling is great news for all Missoula consumers who value their right to choose."
L & L Site Services initially applied for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (PCN) to operate in Missoula County on March 1, 2018. Republic Services already had a PCN in Missoula County, and protested L & L's application. In a public hearing in Missoula, the Public Service Commission heard from a number of members of the community who wanted an alternative garbage company in their area. In their protest, Republic argued that the witnesses who said they wanted a new trash hauling company in the area represented a small number of dissatisfied customers and not a broader need. After that hearing, the Commission voted on August 14 to deny L & L's application for a PCN certificate and leave Republic as the sole trash hauler in Missoula.
On September 7, L & L submitted a petition for reconsideration of that decision. On October 23rd, the PSC voted 3-2 to grant reconsideration and then voted by the same margin to grant a certificate of public convenience to L & L.
Commissioner Bob Lake, whose district includes Missoula County, voted against reconsideration and against granting L & L permission to haul trash. He said, "We were presented evidence in a hearing that was not complete. The applicant has the burden of putting together a case that will prove the need and their ability to improve the service. Without enough evidence, without trying to advocate, they need to put together a case that proves they're going to bring something better to the community."
Commission Vice Chairman Travis Kavulla and Commissioner Tony O’Donnell voted with Koopman to approve L & L’s application. Commission Chairman Brad Johnson joined Commissioner Lake in dissenting.