MTPR

Colstrip Power Plant


Amid constantly changing closure dates for a power plant majority owned by out-of-state companies, a town that found success through coal is coming to terms with the plant’s partial retirement. Kayla Desroches spent a day in Colstrip in southeast Montana to talk with some of the people who live and work in the community.

One of the owners of the Colstrip power plant Thursday agreed to financially withdraw by 2025.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a proposal to remediate pollution from wastewater facilities at Units 1 and 2 at the Colstrip Steam Electric Station.


The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment for next month on the mitigation of Colstrip groundwater contamination.


The state expects to release final details of plans to clean up groundwater contaminated by toxic coal ash at the Colstrip power plant next month.

KEVIN TREVELLYAN / MONTANA PUBLIC RADIO

Rich Trumka, the president of the country’s largest union federation, the AFL-CIO, was in Montana for the state’s convention in Missoula last week. The federation represents many workers in Montana’s troubled coal industry. 

Trumka is a third-generation miner. The Pennsylvania native can’t accept that workers, like those in Colstrip, are getting squeezed out of their jobs.

2019 Montana lobbying spending.
Cassidy Alexander, via Datawrapper / Montana Public Radio

At least $6.5 million dollars was spent on lobbying during the state’s 2019 legislative session. That’s according to the spending reports that groups trying to influence state lawmakers are legally required to file.

Montana Public Radio dug into the reports, which this year got harder for the public to make sense of.

Spending to influence Montana laws and elections.
National Institute on Money in Politics

At least $6.5 million was spent on lobbying efforts during Montana’s 2019 legislative session.

That’s more than two and a half times as much as legislative candidates have raised on their election campaigns annually in recent years.

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

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.

NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Environmental advocacy groups and the state’s largest utility company are arguing over how much customers should pay for power coming from the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.

For the first time in 10 years Montana regulators are revisiting NorthWestern Energy’s ownership at Colstrip in a big picture look at how much the company earns and charges its customers.

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