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Montana lawmaker headed to White House to lobby for coal plant

Posted at 9:37 AM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 11:47:00-05

BILLINGS – A Montana state senator is heading to the White House next month in hopes of saving Colstrip’s coal plants.

Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) will meet with the Trump Administration’s top energy officials March 5, according to a Wednesday news release from Montana Republicans.

“Colstrip is on the radar of President Trump and his administration. I know how important clean coal, jobs, and Montana are to President Trump. I have every reason to be confident that our meeting will be successful,” said Ankney.

The future of the Colstrip has been up in the air since Washington and Oregon said they would limit their use of fossil fuels — much of which is supplied by the plants at Colstrip.

The plant’s two oldest units, 1 and 2, are slated for closure by 2022 by their owners. Units 3 and 4 could close by 2027 because they’ve reached the end of their useful life, according to the owners, but no firm date has been set.

Colstrip Power Plant
The Colstrip Power Plants in Colstrip, MT (MTN News file photo)

Colstrip is owned by a group of six utilities: Talen Energy, NorthWestern Energy, Avista Corp., PacifiCorp, Puget Sound Energy and Portland General Electric. Talen operates the plant.

Ankney says not having Colstrip could jeopardize national security because dependable power is needed for military and government installations across the northwest.

“We have all kinds of defense installations and government installations in the Northwest, and with all these power plants scheduled to go down in the next five years, this leaves no baseload to provide power for them,” Ankney says.

Ankney says coal provides a dependable source of energy and points to a recent cold snap where Colstrip provided nearly all of the power to NorthWestern Energy customers in Montana

“What we are going to talk about (at the White House) is using Colstrip for a baseload power, so when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun don’t shine you can still flip that switch and get power,” Ankney says.

Regardless of what happens in Washington, Ankney also says he is confident that the Colstrip plant will survive and that others will step up and run the plants even without federal intervention.

U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) helped to arrange the White House meeting.

-Russ Riesinger reporting for MTN News