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New Advisory Group Will Help Steer Colstrip Transition

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe
The Colstrip Power Plant consists of four separate coal-fired generating units, collectively owned by Puget Sound Energy, Talen Energy, Avista Corporation, PacifiCorp and NorthWestern Energy.

Governor Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox announced Thursday they’re creating an advisory group for Colstrip to help the area develop an economic impact plan.

Late this year a legal settlement with one of the Colstrip power plant’s part-owners, Puget Sound Energy, resulted in that utility allocating $10 million to help people in the area as the power plant’s Units 1 and 2 shut down. That’s scheduled to happen by 2022.

Jason Small of Busby is one of the advisory group’s 14 members. He’s a Republican state senator and president of the local boilermakers union, and sometimes works at the Colstrip plant.

"Ten million isn’t a big game changer for the area by any means, and we’re just going to have to do our best possible job to try to get this split up and spread out and make the biggest impact with such a small amount of money."

Small says he’d like to see part of the money used for job re-training for people who work at Colstrip, but says there will be a lot of other financial needs in the wake of partial closure of the plant. Things like collapsing real estate market in the town of Colstrip, impacts on schools and higher property taxes.

The Community Impact Advisory Group includes two labor representatives, the mayor of Colstrip and State Senator Duane Ankney, as well a Rosebud County commissioner, a local rancher, and state labor and environmental agency officials, and a representative from Puget Sound Energy.

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