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Colstrip's Future Still Uncertain After End Of Clean Power Plan

Colstrip power plant. (Photo by: ambimb, Some rights reserved)
"It's more about the lawsuits than it is about the clean power plan," says Montana senator Duane Ankey of Colstrip.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, but what does that mean for Montana's largest coal-fired power plant?

If you had asked former coal miner and current Republican state senator Duane Ankney about Obama’s Clean Power Plan four years ago:

"I’d a said, this is what’s gonna take our plants down is the Clean Power Plan," he says. "But right now, I mean, things have changed and it’s more about the lawsuits than it is about the Clean Power Plan.” 

He’s referring to lawsuits filed by environmental groups, along with settlements, that could force the entire Colstrip Steam Electric Station to shut down as early as 2027.

Ankney says those lawsuits have done far more damage than the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants like the one in Colstrip.

But Derf Johnson, an attorney with the Montana Environmental Information Center, says the biggest threat to Colstrip isn't the clean power plan nor lawsuits and settlements. Instead, it's changing economic winds driven by cheaper renewables and the increased availability of natural gas.

Ankney is still happy Trump is abandoning the Clean Power Plan. He says anything that weakens the  Environmental Protection Agency from regulating Montana power is a good thing.

“This is opening it up to where the states, if they want to have these regulations, leave it up to the states, don’t leave it up to Washington, D.C.," he says.

The EPA is expected to declare the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

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