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Montana Lawmakers, Washington Counterparts To Meet Over Future Of Coal

Colstrip power plant, Colstrip Montana.
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Colstrip power plant

Montana and Washington state lawmakers will meet this fall about the possibility of weaning Washington off of Montana coal.

Members of Montana's Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee decided today to accept an invitation from their counterparts in Washington to discuss the issue.

Some Washington lawmakers have proposed accelerating the state's transition to clean energy sources by making it easier for utilities there to shut down part of eastern Montana's coal-fired Colstrip power plant. A utility in Washington is part-owner of the Colstrip plant Montana state Sen.

Duane Ankney says he and three other Montana lawmakers will visit Spokane in October, to emphasize the impact Washington's energy decisions could have on Montana's workforce and economy.

Ankney will suggest that Colstrip could be equipped with carbon-capturing technology rather than phased out. Lawmakers on the committee also suggested inviting Washington lawmakers and public utility regulators to visit Colstrip.

Hamilton Republican Senator Pat Connell wants to see Washington lawmakers take action.

"I believe that that does not go far enough," says Connell. "I believe that it is incumbent that the state of Washington step out of their comfort zone and leave the state of Washington and have a public hearing at Colstrip or in Rosebud county, so that the people that are directly affected by any actions that they consider have an opportunity to present their case to the people that are making the decison."

The agenda for the October meeting when Montana lawmakers go to Spokane has not been finalized.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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