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Rep. Tom Woods, a Bozeman Democrat, has announced plans to run for Public Service Commission, hoping to fill the seat held by Commissioner Roger Koopman, who terms out in 2020.

Woods has served four terms in the state House, sponsoring several bills aimed at holding the state’s utility companies more accountable to ratepayers and said he would continue this work on the Public Service Commission.

“As a legislator, I’ve been working on utility fairness and I’ve fought NorthWestern Energy for four terms,” he said. “I understand the legislative process and think I can do a good job of advocating for consumers.”

During the most recent legislative session, Woods was a vocal opponent of the “Save Colstrip” bill, which garnered much attention and which would have given NorthWestern Energy an incentive to take over more of the Colstrip Power Plant. The bill would have let NorthWestern Energy purchase up to 150 megawatts of power for $1 from companies withdrawing their ownership in the plant and then pass on $75 million in decommissioning and remediation costs to ratepayers when the plant closes.

“I have been a bit of a gadfly for NorthWestern Energy,” Woods said.

Woods cannot run for his House seat again because of term limits. He is the first person to announce his candidacy for Koopman’s seat, which covers several counties in southwest Montana. Filing for the four-year term on the Public Service Commission opens on Jan. 9.

Although Woods is running as a Democrat, he said he doesn’t see the Public Service Commission as doing partisan work and wishes the commissioners were appointed, nonpartisan seats.

“There are people in both parties who feel like I do that if we have regulated monopolies then we should regulate them,” he said. “This is about protecting consumers and not about political affiliation.”

In 2018, Woods ran for Montana’s U.S. House seat as a Democratic challenger to Greg Gianforte but dropped out before the primary. He criticized how expensive campaigning is and said he couldn’t continue to pay to run for the office.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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