Pinocci Dodges Two Felonies, Still A Corrupt Asshole

Pinocci Dodges Two Felonies, Still A Corrupt Asshole

We’ve talked about Randy Pinocci a lot on this blog. If you aren’t familiar, suffice it to say he’s Northwestern Energy’s bestest pal, and he really loves raising your utility bills. His greatest hits include napping during public meetings, acting like a slumlord, and most recently committing crimes via text message.

Montana Republicans get arrested a lot. So don’t be embarrassed if you need a refresher on Pinocci’s wrap sheet. Pinnoci initially had a dispute with a tenant, and he received disorderly conduct charges. Pinocci failed to appear in court, ultimately resulting in Pinocci being arrested at Home Depot due to an active warrant.  

In another keen display of believing he’s above the law, Pinocci then tried to compel a witness (who also appears to have been his tenant) to change their statements to police. Pinocci allegedly refused to refund the witnesses deposit, and even stated in writing that “you’re going to have to recant your testimony with the sheriff’s department.” He got two felony counts of witness tampering for that one, but maybe Pinocci’s onto something here. He can seemingly intimidate witnesses in writing, and the county will drop all but the smallest charges. Despite what appears to be literal written evidence of witness tampering, somehow the county was compelled to “take another look” at the case. Pinocci has to pay a mere $200, and he gets a six-month deferred prosecution agreement. As long as he behaves for six months, then the two felony charges will go away. Maybe being a Public Service Commissioner does come with perks? 

Read the full story and see the court documents here:


Guest Opinion: Oppose Montana Renewable’s Wastewater Permit

Guest Opinion: Oppose Montana Renewable’s Wastewater Permit

Why I Oppose Montana Renewable’s EPA Wastewater Permit

By Lisa Schmidt For WTF406

I raise cattle and sheep on my ranch that, fortunately, has 16 natural springs. Those springs are vital to my livelihood so I protect them fiercely. Contamination of the groundwater would cause irreparable harm to my natural resources and livelihood. Montana Renewables, a subsidiary of Calumet, produces biodiesel in Great Falls. The most efficient method to dispose of the wastewater is to treat it at the refinery. No-brainer.

Instead, the company currently trucks the wastewater 85 miles to load it on railcars and haul it to out-of-state waste sites. This is a temporary disposal plan. Montana Renewables has contracted with Montalban Oil and Gas Operations, hoping to inject that wastewater into two abandoned oil wells at the end of a gravel road 91 miles from the refinery and about five miles as the crow flies from my springs. These wells are within a half mile of Dupuyer Creek, which flows into Lake Francis. Lake Francis is the source for drinking water in Conrad, Valier and Brady, along with irrigation water for 77,000 acres of cropland.

To inject wastewater, owner Patrick Montalban needs a Class V permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. I’m concerned about this plan for three important reasons.
First, Montalban’s permit application describes the injectate materials as “including, but not limited to” vegetable oils and animal fat, among others. In other words, anything could go down those wells. Montana Renewables has never provided comprehensive test results of the wastewater to the Pondera County commissioners, Great Falls water treatment managers or the public, despite repeated requests.

A basic test of potential wastewater reveals that it is contaminated with trace amounts of arsenic, barium and lead, among other things, along with sky-high levels of salts and phosphorus. Water treatment managers normally treat water that contains 3 to 5 parts per million of phosphorus. Montana Renewables wastewater contains 250 ppm. Water treatment managers estimate rates would have to increase by $3 million to $4 million each year if they had to pull that much phosphorus from the water they treat.

Second, the permit application states that 171 times more material will be injected under pressure into the ground than was originally removed. Two containment layers of rock are supposed to maintain separation between the injectate and groundwater. Those layers are limestone and shale. Limestone is known to crack under pressure and shale is only semi-permeable, not impermeable, under pressure.

The permit application requires monitoring with the quarter-mile Area of Review. But Montalban and Montana Renewables corporate officer Bruce Fleming note that the Madison sandstone layer where they want to inject materials runs from Canada to North Dakota, so they have lots of space to fill with contaminated wastewater. But the Madison layer is also a source of groundwater past the quarter-mile, monitored Area of Review. Either the injectate remains within a quarter mile of the wells and builds incredible pressure or it is allowed to flow beyond the Area of Review and potentially contaminate groundwater.

Third, Fleming says people can drink this wastewater. This declaration that people can drink wastewater that contains more than 50 times the amount of phosphorus is only true because the federal government doesn’t have a drinking water standard for phosphorus, yet water treatment plants are required to remove it. Excessive phosphorus can cause diarrhea and hardening of organs and arteries. Fleming is not quite lying, but he certainly is not answering questions in the public’s best interests or being transparent about the process. One has to wonder why.
Montana Renewables has developed an exciting new process to produce biodiesel. They have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the entire world how to handle wastewater the right way. They should embrace that opportunity.

The deadline for comments to the EPA is February 15.
Learn more at

The Clown Car at The PSC Rolls On

The Clown Car at The PSC Rolls On

Legislative Auditors have once again examined the Public Service Commission and, once again, they don’t like what they see.  Specifically, the audit found that only 23% of employees at the PSC  believed that commissioners behaved with high ethical standards.  The auditors found that the shenanigans of various commissioners and consistent promotion of fossil fuels over the last few years have undermined public trust in PSC decision making.  Here’s a brief recap of some of the actions of commissioners which led to another bad audit report.

  • Commissioner Randy Pinocci was arrested for witness tampering in a private matter.  He is currently awaiting trial.
  • Commissioners Randy Pinocci and Tony O’Donnell issued a press release saying that there was a frighteningly real possibility of black outs in eastern Montana and called on the legislature to save the coal plants in southeastern Montana.  Montana Dakota Utilities said the release was “completely unfounded.”
  • Commissioner Jennifer Fielder threatened medical providers in Helena with “political consequences” for refusing to administer a nonclinical remedy for COVID-19.  
  • Commissioner Randy Pinocci publicly suggested that the City of Missoula be targeted for black outs because he said they do not support coal development.
  • Commissioners routinely advocate for coal power even though they are responsible to objectively examine various resources and mechanisms for meeting power needs.  

Commission Chairman, James Brown (who just announced he is running for State Auditor ) objected to much of the audit report saying that some steps have been taken to address some of the issues.  But clearly many issues remain unresolved.

Another Member of the Flat Earth Society, Matt Rosendale

Another Member of the Flat Earth Society, Matt Rosendale

Here’s a video of Matt Rosendale standing in front of Judith Gap wind mills not turning during Montana’s recent extreme weather event. Matt wants us to know that windmills don’t generate power when there is no wind (duh!).  He explains that is why we can’t rely on wind power to meet our energy needs.  Rosendale and his ilk make the same point about solar power.

What Rosendale left out of his propaganda pitch is the fact that the coal plants at Colstrip were “curtailed” during the same severe weather event, producing about half of their capacity for a week before he posted his video.  He also failed to mention that a natural gas hub in Washington State also went off the line at the same time. 

The reality is that the more different kinds of power generation we have feeding the grid the less likely outages are.  But far-right officials like Rosendale can’t be saying that, because it would be supporting DIVERSITY, and we can’t have that can we?

Public Service Commission Chairman Running for State Auditor

Public Service Commission Chairman Running for State Auditor

Public Service Commission Chair, James Brown, announced that he is running for State Auditor in the 2024 election cycle.  Last cycle he ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in one of the sleaziest campaigns in recent memory.  In that race, Brown was dogged by allegations that he repeatedly violated the rules prohibiting partisan endorsements in judicial races.

The court race was not the first time Brown played fast and loose with campaign law.  When he ran for PSC in 2020, there were questions raised about his claiming residence in Dillon. Specifically,  Brown owned a home and operated a law practice in Helena, which is outside his PSC district. But in his candidate filing, he used a Dillon post office box. In Brown’s candidate filing, he lists a Dillon post office box as his mailing address. In his corporate filing for his law practice, he wrote that his home address was in Helena. He argued that he lived in a house in Dillon with his cousin.  But when asked how much time he spent in Dillon by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he refused to answer, saying it was not “relevant.”

After winning election to the PSC and being chosen as PSC chair, Brown was caught up in a scandal regarding audit exceptions found at the PSC by legislative auditors. While the allegations in the audit report occurred before Brown was on the commission, he was called to legislative committee hearings to respond to questions from legislators about what was going on at the PSC. He initially refused to provide the name of a fellow commissioner who had booked a $1,400 first class plane ticket to Washington DC. He later identified the commissioner, former chairman Brad Johnson.  (Johnson is currently running for US Senate.)

In addition to Brown’s adventures in the electoral arena, he has a long history of activity in the world of dark money in politics.  He was the attorney for a group called the Western Tradition Partnership.  The activities of this group came to light when a box of documents were found in a meth house in Colorado, which detailed a laundry list of political dirty tricks in Montana and was the subject for a PBS documentary titled Dark Money. Brown also served as the lawyer for the Montana Republican Party from 2009 to 2015. (

For those who think these kinds of things are just politics as usual consider this. Brown was the chair of the Public Service Commission when it approved a 28% rate increase for consumers, siding with NorthWestern Energy over numerous public interest organizations. He now wants the State Auditor’s job regulating the insurance industry in Montana.  Elections really do matter.

Who is On The Public Service Commission Anyway

Who is On The Public Service Commission Anyway


Unfortunately, the PSC has become a feather bed for right-wing activists. And why not. The salary is $111,000 with full state benefits. And because no one supervises the Commissioners, they have plenty of time to devote to playing right-wing politics.

Here are brief bios of each commissioner you won’t find on the PSC website.

Commission President James Brown– Brown is an attorney and Republican political climber. While serving on the Commission in 2022 and drawing full paychecks from the state, Brown ran for the Montana Supreme Court and lost. He was accused of numerous ethics violations for injecting partisan politics into a judicial race, which is a violation of the Judicial Code of Ethics. Brown was also the lawyer for the State Republican Party for sixyears and represented the American Tradition Partnership, a dark money group which was featured in a PBS Frontline expose titled Big Sky, Big Money.

Commission Vice Chair Jennifer Fielder– Elected to the Commission in 2020, Fielder served eight years in the Montana Legislature, developing a reputation as an aggressive opponent of conservation efforts. She also served as the CEO of the American Lands Council which advocates for transferring Federal lands to state and county governments. She also served as the vice chair of the Montana Republican Party. She was a board member of the Sanders County Natural Resources Council which was started in 2006 by Militia of Montana founder John Trochman.

Commissioner Tony O’Donnell– Elected to the Commission in 2016, O’Donnell is term limited and will be leaving the Commission after the 2024 election. He was removed from a national regulator’s organization after telling racially offensive stories using the “N” word. He also ran afoul of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices when he “loaned” Republican legislative candidate Rod Garcia $3,000 for use in his campaign for legislature.

Commissioner Annie Bukacek– Elected in 2022, Bukacek is an MD but is best known for her far-right activism. She was a leader in the anti-Covid Vaccine movement, organizing and participating in protests while serving on the local Board of Health in Flathead County. She caused another board member to resign. He said he could not serve with Bukacek in good conscience. In 2009 when she was leader of the Montana Prolife Coalition, she came under investigation for her billing practices relating to allegations that she submitted Medicaid reimbursements for time spent praying with patients.

Commissioner Randy Pinocci– What can we say about Pinocci?! He’ll be done with the PSC in 2026. Rather than take up a bunch of space here, you can follow these links for more about Pinocci.

No need to wonder why these people are not very interested or concerned about rate increases for ordinary Montanans. We leave you with this quote from Annie Bukacek regarding the recent 28% rate increase she voted for: “This historic unprecedented increase that people are talking about, it’s $25 to $30 a month. That’s the cost of three to four dozen eggs.” Kind of like Marie Antoinette saying “Let them eat cake”

More from Randy’s World 

More Republican Police Blotter– Pinocci Arrested Again!