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Montana Regulators Drill Down On NorthWestern's Proposed Colstrip Purchase

Four stacks from the Colstrip power plant stick up into a blue sky
Eric Dietrich
Montana Free Press
The Colstrip Steam Electric Station

In the latest step of a long pre approval process, the commission that regulates electric utilities in Montana wants to know how big a share NorthWestern Energy intends to purchase in the Colstrip coal fired power plant.

The exact terms of NorthWestern’s proposed capacity acquisition are still unclear, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) voted this week on July 14 to see a contract before further considering the company’s proposal to buy a greater share of Colstrip’s Unit 4.

PSC Commissioner Tony O’Donnell said the absence of an agreement is frustrating to the commission process.

“So we have nothing to analyze, so there’s nothing for intervenors to comment on because the document doesn’t exist yet," O'Donnell said.

NorthWestern announced in December 2019 that it’d entered discussions to buy Puget Sound Energy’s 25 percent share of Colstrip Unit 4.

Earlier this year, plant operator Talen Energy exercised its right to participate in the purchase, which would throw into question NorthWestern’s previous proposal.

PSC staff said NorthWestern intends to buy somewhere between roughly 92 MW to 185 MW of Puget’s share in Unit 4 and has submitted three separate filings with different revenue requirements and costs to operate.

The PSC’s vote on July 14 follows a similar regulatory decision from last week in Washington State on July 9, that applies to Puget Sound Energy.


Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.