A Dillon lawyer has announced his candidacy for the Public Service Commission seat that represents southwest Montana.

Jim Brown is the first Republican to join the race for the seat held by Roger Koopman. Because of term limits, Koopman is prohibited from seeking the office again in 2020.

Brown has represented several companies, including motor carriers, waste haulers and wind energy producers, before the Public Service Commission, but doesn’t have ongoing cases related to the panel.

He said much of his work as a lawyer has been to protect agricultural producers from conservation groups and defend Montanans against government overreach and regulation by challenging the constitutionality of state laws.

As a lawyer, Brown said he “can be a neutral and fair decider” in the cases that come before the Public Service Commission.

If he were elected, Brown would focus on keeping utilities reliable and low-cost by putting ratepayers first and not catering to out-of-state corporations or special-interest groups.

“At a time when people are concerned about the high price of prescription drugs, they should also be concerned about the growing cost of their power bill,” he said.

He added that he wouldn’t prioritize specific energy sources, such as coal, solar or wind, but would instead act in ratepayers’ interest.

“As a life-long Montanan, I can remember a time when Montana had some of the lowest power rates in the nation,” he said. “Now Montanans pay some of the highest power rates in the nation. This is the result of poor decision-making, government subsidy of fiscally shaking green programs and poor long-term energy planning.”

Last week, Rep. Tom Woods, a Bozeman Democrat, announced his plans to run for Koopman’s seat. Woods has served four terms in the state House.

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

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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