Montana Public Radio

Anne Hedges

 

The state’s largest utility filed its intent to purchase an added share of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant in eastern Montana on Wednesday.

NorthWestern Energy filed paperwork with the Montana Public Service Commission Feb. 6 asking for approval to buy an added 25 percent share of Colstrip Unit 4 from Puget Sound energy for $1. 

Montana’s largest electricity provider on Tuesday announced it plans to buy a larger share of the Colstrip power plant a day after protesters rallied the company to increase its renewable energy portfolio.

Governor Steve Bullock says he could support the controversial Keystone XL pipeline “if it’s done right.” 

As a Democratic Governor of a red state Bullock often straddles issues that others in his party can take a clearer stance on, like the TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline.

In an online town hall event where Bullock pledged making Montana’s electric grid carbon-neutral by 2035, Bullock got a question from Crow Tribal member Avery Old Coyote.

Old Coyote said, "My question is just a simple one, do you support the Keystone XL pipeline?”

Tonight on Capitol Talk: State lawmakers are buckling-down on a number of issues, including increased oversight of non-profit schools for troubled teens; what infrastructure projects to support or reject; what to cut or support in the health department; and whether ratepayers should bear the burden of keeping Colstrip's coal plant going.

Learn more now on Capitol Talk.

Colstrip power plant, Colstrip Montana.
Flicker User ambib (CC-BY-NC)

A plan to allow the state’s largest electric utility to buy a bigger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip is taking a new form. The so-called Montana Energy Security Act of 2019 was introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature.

Hours after senators voted to table a prior proposal to allow NorthWestern Energy to buy more of Colstrip and pass along certain costs to their customers for up to 30 years, a similar idea landed in the hopper.

Montana Republican Senator Duane Ankney.
Nick Mott / MTPR

Following a trip to Washington, D.C. arranged by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana lawmaker said he’s 65-percent confident a White House plan to subsidize coal-fired power plants will succeed. Colstrip Sen. Duane Ankney says he discussed the idea of helping coal compete with renewables and natural gas with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Colstrip power plant.
John Adams / Montana Free Press

HELENA — A bill would allow NorthWestern Energy to take control of the Colstrip power plant with scaled-back regulatory oversight, and it’s moving through the Legislature at lightning speed.

Another Republican joins the 2020 race for governor. Republicans may be open to borrowing money for infrastructure projects — with a catch. A proposal for the state to buy a coal-fired power plant gets a rocky reception. Why passing new taxes could get harder. And a new poll shows the power of independent voters in Montana. Learn more now on "Capitol Talk" with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Corin Cates-Carney.

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

Lawmakers in Helena are starting to debate whether the state could borrow up to $500 million to buy the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip

The future of the plant is up in the air. The West Coast consumers who Colstrip sends most of its power to are pushing away from coal-powered electricity due to climate change concerns. Coal power is also becoming more expensive relative to electricity generated by natural gas and renewables.

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

A new study funded in part by the coal industry says shutting down of Colstrip’s two newer, larger coal-fired electricity generators in the next decade could have a huge impact statewide.

Colstrip’s two older units, 1 and 2, will shut down no later than July 2022 because of a Clean Air Act lawsuit settlement. But the future of the newer units, 3 and 4, remains uncertain.

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