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Public Participation 

 

The Montana Public Service Commission directly affects the safety, well-being, and finances of Montanans from every corner of the state and all walks of life. Commissioners are bound to make decisions in the public interest that are based on applicable federal and state statute, administrative law, and record evidence. Nevertheless, commissioners rely on input from members of the public to identify important issues in contested case proceedings, and to inform their decisions during more informal proceedings.

To participate effectively in Commission business, it’s helpful to understand how the Commission functions.

CONTESTED VS. UNCONTESTED PROCEEDINGS

Commission proceedings fall into two general categories, with differences in the formality of the proceedings and in the required procedural steps.

Contested Case Proceedings

Contested case proceedings are conducted similar to trials, and require parties to follow various substantive and procedural rules. Generally, a contested case proceeding will involve various stages: the initial application, noticing of the application, opportunity for public comment or intervention, discovery, an evidentiary hearing, and a final order issued by the Commission that resolves the issue. You can view the Commission’s contested case regulations in Mont. Admin. R. 38.2.101 through .5031 for more information. 

At each of these stages there are various opportunities to either contest or support the action before the Commission. If you seek to become a formal party in a contested case proceeding – through intervention – you must follow the procedures outlined in each docket’s initial notice. See Mont. Admin. R. 38.2.2401 through 2406 for an overview of the Commission’s intervention policies.

Importantly, if you are granted intervention by the Commission, you will be a formal party to the docket, and must follow the same substantive and procedural rules identified above. For businesses, this entails being represented by an attorney. For individuals, you do not need to be represented by an attorney, however legal representation is vital to effectively navigate the various requirements for contested case proceedings.

If you have any questions about these processes, we encourage you to contact PSC legal staff 444-6376 for assistance. 

Public Participation in Contested Cases 

You do not need to be a party to provide input in a contested case proceeding. The public is welcome to submit comments to the Commission in a number of ways:

In writing: Mail your comment to 1701 Prospect Ave., Helena, MT, 59601

Email: Email your comment to PSC_utilitycomment@mt.gov

Online: Submit your comment through our online comment form [Link].

Public Meeting: The Commission accepts public comment at the beginning and close of all regularly scheduled business meetings and public hearings. All Commission meetings are live-streamed HERE. 

Public comments are very helpful to the Commission because they identify issues that the Commission can ask the parties to address. Because public comments are not submitted to the Commission under oath and are not subject to cross-examination, they are not “evidence” in any given proceeding; only information presented by parties under oath and subject to cross-examination is evidence that can be used as the basis for the Commission’s decision. However, public comments received prior to an evidentiary hearing can be used by the Commission to bring new issues to light, which can then be properly addressed by the parties in the evidentiary record.

In addition, if you are interested in a Commission proceeding, you may find it useful to contact the Montana Consumer Counsel, which is charged by law to represent consumer interests in matters before the commission. The consumer counsel is located at 616 Helena Ave., Helena, Montana 59620. Their phone number is 444-2771.

Uncontested case Proceedings 

Uncontested case proceedings are a less formal process the Commission uses to gather necessary information to develop policies. The Commission obtains this information using round table discussions, written comments, and other informal stakeholder processes that are generally open to anyone who is interested in participating. There are not "parties" in uncontested case proceedings. Rather, members of the public are invited to participate through a variety of methods including: attending meetings, submitting written comments, (whether by e-mail or through the PSC’s online comment form, or speaking at public hearings.