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Colstrip Operator And Montana Reach Tentative Agreement For Retired Ash Ponds

The Colstrip Steam Electric Station's four stacks
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio

The state of Montana and the operator of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant have come to a tentative agreement on how to remove pollution at the plant’s two retired units.

The agreement comes after the plant’s operator challenged the agency’s selected cleanup method this winter.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and power plant operator Talen Energy are one step closer to cleanup of the Colstrip power plant units 1 and 2 coal ash ponds, which span the equivalent of roughly 200 football fields.

DEQ Waste Management and Remediation Division Administrator Jenny Chambers says the agency chose the complete removal and relocation of the leaking waste ponds, which contain toxins like arsenic, to another part of Talen property.

“It permanently achieves that groundwater cleanup criteria,” Chambers says.

Power plant operator Talen Energy called the cleanup the most invasive and expensive option and initiated a formal dispute process in December. The utility also fought the $285 million price tag for the cleanup.

The tentative agreement DEQ announced this week allows Talen two years to work out an alternative to complete extraction and relocation of the ash and grants Talen a cleanup bond of $163 million. Talen declined to comment further when YPR reached out.

According to DEQ, a final agreement is forthcoming.

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