Montana Public Radio

Colstrip Power Plant

Montana Coal Power Plant Closing Two Units Built In 1970s

Jan 3, 2020
Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — One of the largest coal-fired power plants in the western U.S. will close two of its four units in coming days as the Montana facility edges toward an eventual total shutdown.

What NorthWestern Energy's Supply Strategy Could Mean For Customers

Dec 19, 2019

This story was originally published by the Montana Free Press on Dec. 19, 2019.

At a cramped meeting before the Montana Public Service Commission in Helena Dec. 9, a crowd of climate activists radiated suspicion as a bearded economist flipped through a slide deck.

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.


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.

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