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Colstrip Coal-Fired Power Plant Owners In Oregon And Washington State Battle Montana Law

Colstrip power plant seen through a gate
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
Colstrip coal-fired power plant as seen through a gate in October, 2020.

The Pacific Northwest co-owners of the Colstrip coal fired power plant are asking a federal judge for a preliminary injunction to stop the Montana attorney general’s office from enforcing a law they say changes the terms of their private ownership contract.

Judge Susan Watters heard the motion in Billings Friday.

The law, among other things, requires owners’ unanimous consent to close the Colstrip coal-fired power plant. That’s one of the same contract conditions the plaintiffs say co-owners are arguing in arbitration.

Oregon and Washington State-based Electric utilities Avista, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric and Pacificorp are planning their exits from Colstrip due to state clean energy laws that require them to phase out coal-fired generation.

They say the Montana law favors the interests of the state and other stakeholders that want to keep the plant open.

The Montana attorney general’s office took no position on the motion and said it was too early for the utilities to take action against the law because the state isn’t close to enforcing it. Montana judge Susan Watters was still considering the motion as of Friday afternoon. The case is just one of several legal proceedings plant owners have brought since the end of the 2021 legislative session.

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