COLSTRIP - Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox were in town Monday night to help citizens in Colstrip chart a new path away from coal.
Bullock and Fox traveled from Helena for the first initial meeting of the Colstrip Advisory Board, which is charged with deciding how best to spend $10 million in community impact funds to soften the economic blow of pending closure of Colstrip Units 1 & 2.
Fox, who grew up in nearby Hardin, knows the stakes are extremely high, "my office at the Department of Justice is committed to supporting this community as it plans for the future," said Fox.
"I want Colstrip to know I have your back. And while this community has experienced many challenges over the past few years, I believe there are reasons to be optimistic," Fox said.
Gov. Bullock said while he's anxious to see the specific ideas from the advisory board, he's confident the same work ethic that helped build Colstrip in the beginning will serve the community well into the future.
"That work ethic and the ability to also say how can we work together moving forward, gives me confidence that we're going to preserve and enhance both jobs and livelihoods in this town. And we'll do it with a Made in Montana solution," said Gov. Bullock.
In addition to the steam clouds hanging over the Colstrip Generating Complex Monday, there's also an air of uncertainty as to what that future might hold. Both the governor and the attorney general told MTN News they're convinced Colstrip and Montana are up to the task.
"At the end of the day, this was a company town," said Gov. Bullock. "It was built by the companies, but now the community needs to own it and say we're actually bigger and stronger than the companies."
Fox said he hopes the advisory board considers all options.
"I don't believe the plan is no more coal, no more coal-fired generation," said Fox. "I think there are many options on the table, and we need to make sure we look at all of them," Fox said.
The Colstrip Advisory Board includes not only the governor's and attorney general's offices, but also representatives from local unions, Puget Sound Energy, and the SouthEastern Montana Development Corporation. All are important stakeholders as to the shape of Colstrip's future.
Time will tell how quickly that new future will arrive.