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Legislators in Montana grapple with fate of Colstrip and similar communities
Some lawmakers support a coal-production tax increase to support transition in communities like Colstrip. Others see it is an industry killer. All agree that Montana coal mining is in decline.
Westmoreland Coal’s troubled finances spell more doubt for Colstrip
The Colstrip power plant, a pillar of the economy of southeastern Montana, may close earlier than anticipated as a result of the bankruptcy of Westmoreland Coal, its sole supplier.
Long-term decline in Wyoming and Montana coal production weighs heavily on region
Further declines in demand for Powder River Basin coal are prompting many companies to “cut staff or benefits, reduce their exposure to the basin or leave it entirely.”
Transition preparation as community strategy against corporate fear campaigns
Preparing for economic transition is the best way to head off corporate fear-based campaigns that “companies can hold over communities and workers,” said one speaker at a Montana coal conference.
Proposed revisions to Clean Power Plan unlikely to help iconic Montana plant
Colstrip Power Plant, which is one of the biggest power plants in the western U.S. and is struggling to survive a sea change in how electricity is generated, would probably not benefit from the Trump administration’s proposed revision to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Two of the plant’s four units are already scheduled for retirement and the other two have been closed recently for failure to comply with federal rules that are not addressed in the Trump proposal. “In terms of the big picture, it doesn’t really change the underlying pressures on the utilities, and particularly Colstrip, that are facing things like customer calls to divest in coal and restructure assets,” said one industry analyst. “It’s one thing to set policies that try to help, but it’s not a bailout and it’s not going to make power plants any younger.”
Wind company seeks permits to build four turbine complexes in Montana
A New York company is in negotiations with Montana officials for permission to build four windfarms in the state. The projects, which would come online by 2020 if approved, would include an electricity-storage component that represents the leading edge of technology innovation across the industry. The company, Caithness Beaver Creek, says the windfarms would have the capacity to generate 320 megawatts of electricity and to store 160 megawatts of power, enough in total to power almost 400,000 homes.
Report: A proper Colstrip cleanup would create new jobs
Community activists in Colstrip, Mont., are urging the corporate owner of Colstrip Power Plant to invest in the excavation and removal of its coal-ash ponds once two of the plant’s three electricity-generating units shut down in 2022. A report by the Northern Plains Resource Council concludes that such a reclamation initiative would help sustain the town’s declining economy. “Doing a thorough cleanup now will employ more people, make the land more attractive to businesses and industries looking to come to Colstrip and potentially will keep taxpayers from footing the bill.”
Deal moves Colstrip closer to a "post-coal" future
The Montana Public Service Commission approved a sale that moves ownership of the Colstrip Power Plant to a Canadian corporation in a deal that includes a $4.5 million payment to the city of Colstrip as part of an arrangement meant to blunt the impact of the eventual closure of the plant. Commissioners said the deal “appears to be in the public interest, for Montana consumers and the state.”
Coal Company Goes Silent on Montana Lease-Development Prospects
A coal-mining company has stopped communicating with Montana officials on its intentions around development of a 7,000-acre coal-reserve lease with the state. A subsidiary of Arch Coal, which went through bankruptcy reorganization in 2016, holds the lease on the tract in the Powder River Basin. Its silence “has left the state with questions about future intentions for mining and who would buy the coal given a softening domestic coal market and a projected long-term decline globally.”
Ruling on Montana and Wyoming Federal Coal Lease Policy Another Setback to Mining Industry
In a blow to the coal industry in Montana and Wyoming, a federal judge has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management must consider potential impacts on climate change in deciding on further permitting of federal coal leases. The case could ultimately put a legal limit on the amount of coal mined in the region. “This ruling is the latest example of courts forcing the federal government to be honest with the American public,” one plaintiff said.
$3 Million in Transition Funding for Colstrip, Montana
In anticipation of the closure of Colstrip Generating Station in Montana, one of the power plant’s owners has pledged $3 million “to help its host community transition beyond coal.” The commitment brings the total in such funding from the station’s owners to $10 million. “Any help is a good thing,” said one advocate for keeping the struggling plant alive. “There’s going to have to be a lot done.”
Montana Ballot Initiative Aims to Smooth Transition
A former Montana lawmaker is promoting a ballot initiative that would have the state’s utilities increase their reliance on renewable energy to 80 percent by 2050. The proposal calls for job retraining and unemployment benefits for up to two years for workers currently employed by coal mines, power plants and railroads. And it includes a mechanism for replacing coal taxes and protecting government and tribal revenue.
Coal company with mines in several states is in financial peril
An analysis of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal shows that it is in deep financial peril, a situation that may affect communities in Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming as the company’s customer base dries up. “The cost inherent in coal-fired power are moving (utilities) away from coal," says the study’s author.
As Washington state looks for cleaner power, a Montana coal town faces an uncertain future
As market trends continue to shrink the coal industry and plants shut down, communites are faced with the challenge of transitioning. With two of four units closing by 2022, the community of Colstrip, Montana prepares for the phaseout.
Montana Plant, $2 Million in Arrears on Local Taxes, Will Close Next Year
The owner of a relatively new coal-fired power plant in Montana says it will probably close next year after having lost money since 2014. The closing will affect about 30 people and will put the company, Heorot Power, further behind on $2 million in delinquent tax obligations to local schools and government.
Commentary: Planning for a Future Beyond Coal
The challenges facing Colstrip, Mont., are a microcosm of those seen in similar communities nationally: “Coal states across the country face a similar future, and while heel-dragging may help coal company owners maximize their profit in the short-term, it does nothing for coal miners and their families.”
Washington State Resists Proposed $10 Million Payout on Colstrip Closure
One of the biggest coal-fired power generation stations in the West, unable to compete against market forces, is slated for shutdown. Its closing will affect Powder River Basin mines in Montana alongside the community of Colstrip, which is planning for transition.