Randy, Randy, Randy.  What Now??

Randy, Randy, Randy. What Now??

Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci has had a lien filed on his property by the Braden Tract Sewer Association and Braden Tract Water Fund for non-payment of bills in the amount of $1,720.  In addition, the districts are claiming Pinocci is responsible for moving a fence which is encroaching on its property at an estimated cost of $5,500.  

Perhaps the greatest irony in this chapter of the long, sad saga of Pinocci’s behavior in public office is that, as a Public Service Commissioner, Pinocci is responsible for regulating public utilities similar to these two small local utilities. One of the biggest problems these businesses face is deadbeats not paying their bills.  When that happens, other ratepayers pick up the tab. Pinocci either doesn’t understand that or he doesn’t care.  Probably a bit of both.

As the Public Service Commissioner representing PSC District #1, which includes Cascade County, Pinocci earns an annual salary of $111,179.  That does not include benefits like state retirement and health insurance.  His wife, Svetlana, works in the elections office.  She gets a good salary and county benefits.  In addition, Pinocci has real estate appraised at a total value of  $1,006,303.  You would think he can afford to pay his water and sewer bills. . . like the rest of us.  But Randy isn’t like the rest of us.

Pinocci seems to want to play politics more than do his job with the PSC.  In the last election, he ran for Lieutenant Governor drawing his big paycheck from you and me the whole time.  Then there is the fact that he was prosecuted for intimidating witnesses in a dispute over one of his rental properties last October.  https://wtf406.com/2023/10/more-republican-police-blotter-pinocci-arrested-again/

A few weeks before that, he was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear.  When he is not being arrested or prosecuted, he is galavanting around the state promoting bizarre conspiracy theories.

Thanks, in part, to an organized effort to get Democrats to “cross over” and vote in the Republican Primary here in Cascade County, voters got rid of some of the far right leaders in their party.  Legislators Steven Galloway and Lola Sheldon-Galloway lost.  County Commissioner Rae Grulkowski also was turned away by the voters (though the rumor mill is predicting she will be hired by Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant).  Both Pinocci and Merchant also lost their bids to be elected as Republican Party precinct people. Maybe there’s some hope for sanity in the local Republican Party.  

Pinocci’s term on the Public Service Commission ends in 2026.  Who knows what he will run for  next.  Whatever it is, we can only hope he is defeated.



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: https://dailymontanan.com/2024/04/12/randy-pinocci-pleads-no-contest-to-misdemeanor-felonies-dropped/


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 https://www.epa.gov/uic/mogo-jody-field-34-1-34-2-disposal-well-glacier-county-montana-permit-s-mt52443-12513-mt52439

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 https://wtf406.com/2024/01/public-service-commission-chairman-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. https://twitter.com/i/status/1746208420871688233

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.  https://dailymontanan.com/2024/01/18/montana-could-be-a-leader-in-energy-but-weve-fallen-behind/ 

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.  https://montanafreepress.org/2022/05/25/republican-support-stacks-up-in-montana-supreme-court-race/

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.) https://montanafreepress.org/2021/06/08/psc-rebuked-for-legislative-audit/

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. (https://www.pbs.org/pov/films/darkmoney/  


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.