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KULR: Daines announces $300,000 to spur economic development for Colstrip communities

August 02, 2019

U.S. Senator Steve Daines today announced that $300,000 will be directed towards Rosebud County to strengthen Colstrip and support the economic infrastructure of the local community.


“This is about making sure the folks at Colstrip aren’t left behind,” Daines said. “These grants will strengthen the local community in Rosebud by creating good paying jobs and spurring economic development for Rosebud County’s small businesses.”


Colstrip was granted two grants from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for $300,000.


$250,000 will be directed provide financing to the coal industries in the counties impacted by the imminent closure of the power plant in Colstrip, Montana. The project will help promote growth and economic development by increasing investment, employment, and economic diversity throughout the region. Read full story here > > >

Billings Gazette: Colstrip Owners Losses Mount as Hunt for Cheaper Coal Continues

August 02, 2019



With two of its four units shutting down this year, Colstrip Power Plant is still struggling to find cheap coal and retain employees, plant operator Talen Energy told lawmakers this week.


Talen Montana President Dale Lebsack said his company continues to lose money on Colstrip Units 1 and 2. In June, the company abruptly announced it would close 1 and 2 this December, three years ahead of schedule. The announcement to shutter the units came after four months of Colstrip talks at the state Legislature, during which there was no mention of the units closing earlier than 2022. Lebsack said Talen has been transparent about Colstrip’s struggles. Full story here > > >

Montana Public Radio: Colstrip Power Plant Units 1 and 2 to Close This Year

June 11, 2019

By Corin Cates-Carney

Units 1 and 2 of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip will permanently close at the end of this year. Plant operator Talen Energy made that announcement in a press release Tuesday, saying the company has been unsuccessful in making the units economically viable. Talen says the plant’s newer units, 3 and 4, will remain open.


The closure of Colstrip’s older coal-burning units is the latest ripple from changing customer demands, environmental laws, and economics that are all driving the West Coast energy markets — which the power plant primarily serves — away from coal-fired power.

State Sen. Duane Ankney, a retired coal miner from Colstrip, says the closure of the plant’s two older units was expected, but not until 2022. Ankney says it’s still devastating to the town and workers.


"I don’t think they was really ready for it. You’re never ready for something like this. But that being said, I think they’re very resilient in Colstrip and I think they’ll continue to be a very strong community."

A 2016 settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center under the federal Clean Air Act resulted in Talen announcing plans to shut down Units 1 and 2 in 2022. So Tuesday’s announcement was a surprise.

Dale Lebsack, Talen Montana president, said in the company's announcement that the decision came, “After extensive review and exhaustive efforts over the last few years to address the financial challenges that these units face."

KTVQ: Colstrip to get $10 million to plan for the closure of power plants 1 and 2

December 05, 2017

By Jay Kohn - MTN


The community of Colstrip will get up to $10 million dollars for community planning purposes as Puget Sound Energy moves ahead to decommission units 1 and 2 of the town's coal-fired power plants.


That $10 million is part of a settlement agreement approved unanimously Tuesday by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.


The settlement terms, first reached in September, established a financing mechanism for the utility to shut down the two oldest power plants by no later than 2022.


While the settlement does not set a shut-down date for units 3 and 4, it speeds up the time frame that PSE can recover its costs by 18 years to 2027.


As for the $10 million for community planning purposes, $5 million will be paid by PSE, and the other $5 million will come from the company's shareholders...

December 03, 2017

Excerpt: Colstrip 1 and 2 will require “decades of cleanup” with costs running over $100 million, according to Steve Secrist, PSE senior vice president and general counsel. Secrist, who helped negotiate the proposed rate case settlement, said the cleanup will create nearly 100 jobs, approximately as many as would be lost at the plants with the closure...

Secrist said remediation will create “family wage jobs.” “We want to get solutions, retrain employees, certify them to give certainty to families that they will have work for the next 20 years,” Secrist said.

KTVQ: Colstrip community to receive $4.6 million in federal funds to retrain workers

August 01, 2017

COLSTRIP - The community of Colstrip will receive federal aid to assist with workforce planning and training "to ensure the successful transition of the region to a diversified economy," according to Montana Governor Steve Bullock.


“Taking care of the workers of Colstrip is a top priority of our administration, and I remain committed to making sure we don’t leave the community high and dry,” said Bullock. “This funding is absolutely critical to ensuring responsible, Montana-made solutions that will bolster job creation potential and harness good-paying jobs for hard-working Montanans and their families in the region.”


Two million in funding will be immediately available for planning efforts in Colstrip and for workforce training of coal workers in other Montana communities.


In response to the decline in coal mining employment and potential long-term impacts in the region, the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) applied for the POWER grant through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker program to provide support for the local Colstrip community to achieve their economic development goals.

Wall Street Journal: Coal’s Decline Spreads Far Beyond Appalachia

June 19, 2017

By Jon Kamp and Kris Maher

SOMERSET, Mass.—Far from the mines of Appalachia, the decline of coal is hitting communities that relied on coal-fired power plants for jobs and income.


During the past five years, roughly 350 coal-fired generating units shut down across the U.S., ranging from small units at factories to huge power plants, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. A single power plant could have one or several units.


Many of these plants were built near the source in Appalachia and western states. But generators built in far-away places like New England have also turned off.


The shutdowns can cost communities both high-paying jobs and important sources of tax revenue. Natural-gas-fired plants have quickly mushroomed up across the U.S. to replace the retiring coal generators, but those plants need far fewer workers—one for every five that worked at a coal plant, by some estimates.


A 54-year-old coal-fired plant here stopped operating three weeks ago, and local officials started raising property taxes several years back to compensate for lower revenue from the town’s largest taxpayer as production slowed.

{end excerpt}

Helena Independent Record: As coal production declines, Montana sees drop in coal jobs, plans for more

June 11, 2017



As President Donald Trump has rolled out a series of moves he claims will increase the number of coal-mining jobs in the U.S., analysts have met each announcement with data showing employment in that industry has been declining for decades because of economic pressures — and that likely won’t change because of the president’s actions.


But like many things in this state, talking about coal jobs in Montana is a little bit different. Since about 2000 here and up until a year ago, the Treasure State has bucked the trend, actually adding coal mining jobs at a 33 percent clip overall from 2001-2015.


In the past year, though, the numbers have declined, mirroring a drop in production that could be an indicator of what’s to come.

Billings Gazette Guest View: Time for a better solution to Colstrip

March 26, 2017



We owe a debt of gratitude to the hardworking people of Colstrip for their contributions to Montana’s economy. We agree stakeholders in public and private sectors should be working together to ease the transition and retirement of Colstrip Units 1 and 2 which have been a mainstay in the community for nearly 50 years and provided a reliable source of power before the larger Units 3 and 4 were constructed in the mid-1980s.


While we understand the sentiment behind Senate Bill 338, sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney of Colstrip, we have grave concerns about the far-reaching scope of the so-called “decommissioning” included in the bill.

Deterring New Business to Montana

The Montana Chamber of Commerce works very hard to create the most optimal business climate in Montana. Our message is that Montana is open for business. Nowhere in this recruiting process are these businesses told that if they have to depart, that they will be assessed an exit fee. As currently written, the bill would require the owners of the Colstrip to pay an “exit fee” to the State of Montana regardless of whether market conditions, laws, and regulatory requirements make retiring the unit the most reasonable decision.

If the state wishes to create an exit impact policy it should be in place and made known to businesses as they locate in Montana so they can factor that into the equation as they make their decision where to locate.

There is Time for a Better Solution

There is a myth that we need to pass this bill now and Montana isn’t paying any attention to Colstrip. The fact is, the Montana Attorney General has been granted intervenor status in Washington State to help represent Montana in Puget Sound Energy’s general rate case proceeding before the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

It will be years until Units 1 and 2 are retired and decommissioned. Meanwhile, the newer, higher employing and more powerful Units 3 and 4 will continue to operate and contribute to the local economy. All four units combined pay approximately 78 percent of property taxes in the City of Colstrip. When Units 1 and 2 are retired and fully decommissioned years from now, Units 3 and 4 will continue to pay 71 percent of local property taxes.


There is time to get this right and we owe it to the people of Colstrip and the entire state to come up with a more workable solution so we do not unintentionally drive these good paying employers out of our state.

In summary, SB 338 is not the right path forward. We have seen many large employers come and go from this state without being asked to pay an exit fee – but this bill singles out the energy industry. In effect, this policy condones punishing businesses for making a perfectly legitimate (and legal) business decision to stop operating. This bill offers no certainty for Colstrip and would set a new precedent that could harm future natural resource investment in Montana.

We agree with the sentiment that we want to do right by Colstrip, but there must be a better way that won’t hurt future investment in Montana and cripple Montana’s ability to attract new businesses to the state.

Webb Brown is the President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce and Bob Story is Montana Taxpayers Association Executive Director.

Opinion: Colstrip bill could derail clean energy future

March 25, 2017

Last Best News



Colstrip’s old coal-fired power units are losing money and that means their days are numbered. Units 1 and 2 are closing by 2022 at the latest and maybe sooner.  We need to make sure Colstrip’s operators fulfill their responsibilities in helping the state deal with the economic loss to workers, the community and the environment.  But, we have another problem.

Legislation has been proposed that doesn’t just hold Colstrip’s operators accountable—it punishes them.  And, as good as retribution may feel, the problem is that it will also scare away developers and companies whose investments we want and need.

Montana has huge potential as an exporter of clean energy from wind and solar in the region around Colstrip where we most need development.  It would be tragic to compound the closure of the coal facility by showing potential developers of those resources that they risk being singled out for legislative retribution if they come to Montana and run afoul of state leaders.

That’s just what Senate Bill 338, sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, would do.  No one doubts Ankney’s desire to do what’s right for his community and his constituents, but his bill would make Colstrip’s owners pay for a wide array of costs that fall outside the scope of normal agreements—costs like residential property value devaluations.  Potential developers of businesses and facilities that we hope will someday replace Colstrip look at such legislation and see increased risks, increased cost and increased reason to develop somewhere other than Montana.

Meanwhile, Puget Sound Energy has committed money for decommissioning and cleanup costs. Yet, Senate Bill 338 fails to require Talen Energy—the other owner of units 1 and 2—to provide any money for the substantial decommissioning and cleanup costs in Colstrip. These costs are estimated at more than $200 million just for the two older units.


Leaky coal ash ponds have poisoned the town’s aquifer and, considering Montana’s long history of having to clean up environmental messes left after polluting industries cut and run, Colstrip is looking like its cleanup will become another burden inflicted on Montana taxpayers.


The overreach of the penalties in this bill is why conservative groups like the Montana Taxpayers Association and the Montana Chamber of Commerce oppose the bill, which they argue penalizes companies for making market-based economic decisions and creates an anti-business environment in the state. Meanwhile, utilities that operate in large and growing West Coast markets that Montana has relied on for decades are indicating that the bill would make them less likely to invest in future energy projects in Montana.

It’s important to remember that utilities are perhaps the most risk-averse business out there. They put immense effort into assessing risks, and how much negative value to assign to that risk. If utilities are worried that Montana may someday hammer them with an exit fee that goes beyond appropriate accountability, it’s very easy to decide they should take their energy generation investments elsewhere.

SB 338 shuts the door on investment and puts up a “closed for business” sign to out-of-state industries. And, in the short term, it may even cause Talen, Colstrip’s current operator, to walk away even sooner than originally planned, leaving PSE and Montana taxpayers to pick up the tab. A Talen lobbyist recently told legislators that the company may not make it through the end of this year.


We must require that Colstrip’s owners do their part to help the Colstrip community transition and clean up the site properly. We should use the money they contribute to make Colstrip and Montana as a whole livable for the long-term by making sure we have clean drinking water for families, farmers and ranchers. And we should use the law to keep Colstrip and Montana attractive to businesses that want to develop our immense wind and solar resources.


Diego Rivas is a senior policy associate with the NW Energy Coalition, an alliance of more than 100 environmental, civic and human services organizations, utilities, and businesses in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

January 24, 2017

In a guest column published by the Billings Gazette and newspapers around the state, former Colstrip resident and director of thermal resources at Puget Sound Energy, Ron Roberts called for facts to shape the discourse:

I am very saddened to see a great deal of misinformation circulating regarding Puget Sound Energy’s plans for the future of Units 1 and 2 at the Colstrip generation station. I know this creates uncertainty and added stress.


Puget Sound Energy has been a part of the Colstrip community for close to five decades. Over the years, we’ve seen MontanaPower Co. go away and we’ve seen three changes in the operator of the plant in the last 24 months. While we don’t always make a lot of noise, PSE has been there from the beginning and hopes to be there for years to come.

February 17, 2017

Montana Public Radio: House Speaker Says Keeping Colstrip Power Plant Open Is 'Complex'


After announcing a soon-to-be-released plan to help keep parts of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip open, Montana’s Speaker of the House now says that plan is still up in the air.


During the GOP rebuttal to Governor Steve Bullock’s State of the State address in January, Speaker Austin Knudsen said he would be introducing legislation in the upcoming days to help keep Colstrip Units 1 and 2 open for as long as possible.


After a 2016 lawsuit settlement between the power plant’s operators and environmental groups requiring  the shutdown of Colstip’s two older units by 2022, lawmakers in Helena started searching for ways to protect the energy markets and families the plant helps sustain.


But since his announcement in January, the Speaker’s plan has been delayed by what he calls the complex situation facing Colstrip.  

"I probably shouldn’t have said I was going to bring legislation in a couple days," Knudsen says. "We had had an idea that ended up not being ready for prime time yet."

Billings Gazette: Riversone Completes Buyout of Talen Energy Colstrip Owner

December 08, 2016

HELENA — Riverstone Holdings LLC has completed its $1.8 billion purchase of Talen Energy Corp., the Pennsylvania company that is the operator and co-owner of Montana's Colstrip power plant. The private company announced the merger's completion on Tuesday.


The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, reports that Ralph Alexander will replace Paul Farr as Talen's president and CEO. The newspaper says Farr signed a $21 million severance agreement last year.


Talen previously sent notice to the other owners of the coal-fired power plant in Montana that it wants out as operator by mid-2018.

The future of the plant, which provides power to much of the Pacific Northwest, has been in question amid low coal prices, increasing federal regulations and environmental lawsuits.


Talen and Puget Sound Energy of Washington state plan to shut down two of the plant's four units by 2022.

Billings Gazette Guest Opinion: "Pay Attention to Economic Realities of Coal"

September 30, 2016

Thomas Michael Power, the Principal in Power Consulting, Inc. and a research professor and Professor Emeritus in the Economics Department at the University of Montana and Donovan S. Power, the principal scientist at Power Consulting, Inc. explain the facts and economic realities facing Colstrip.


They write, "The most basic part of this debate is that the coal industry has been in a slump both domestically and internationally for years. Most of the largest coal companies in the U.S. and most of the major coal companies mining in Wyoming and Montana have had to declare bankruptcy within the last year. The coal port proposals that were going to reinvigorate Montana coal production have all but gone away as Asia, and specifically China, cut back their coal imports as their economic growth slowed.

China, like the rest of the industrialized world, is also worried about their greenhouse gas and other toxic emissions associated with coal fired power generation. The Montana coal industry can no longer look to Asia as a means to offset shrinking domestic U.S. coal markets."

Reuters: Top U.S. Coal Companies Announce Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2016

April 15, 2016

According to an April 2016 Reuters report, "Tumbling coal prices have pushed six publicly listed U.S. coal producers into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the last one year, according to a Reuters review of regulatory filings.

Global steel oversupply and slowing growth in China have pressured U.S. metallurgical coal producers. Closer home, the U.S. shale boom made natural gas competitive with thermal coal, while stricter environmental regulations raised operational costs."

Reuters: China's steps to fight rampant pollution hits Asian coal demand

December 21, 2016

As Reuters reports, "China's coal demand has slowed as authorities have taken steps to reduce the rampant air pollution that has gripped the country this month."

Billings Gazette: NorthWestern Energy Assigns "negative value" to Colstrip Plants

December 31, 2013

In this news story covering documents filed by NorthWestern energy with the Montana Public Service Commission, "NorthWestern attached a negative value to the Colstrip plants, worried that any buyer eventually would have to shut down the plants and bear the cost of “remediating” the sites."

HCN Report: Coal jobs decline with or without federal regulations

July 21, 2016

This article outlines the overall global coal market explaining, "Amid the federal government’s reform of coal-leasing nationwide, new environmental regulations and coalmine cutbacks and layoffs, a new report from the Energy Information Administration suggests things are likely to get even grimmer for coal mining in Western states. 


The report, published July 21, states that contraction of the coal mining industry is likely to continue. Across the West, coal production is projected to decline by about 26 percent, or 230 million tons of coal, between 2015 and 2040."

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