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State regulators and Colstrip power plant operators finalize waste cleanup plan

The smoke stacks from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station rise over a field in the foreground.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
The Colstrip coal-fired power plant in October 2020.

The operator of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip and Montana state regulators have finalized a plan to clean up pollution at the plant’s two retired units.

Talen Energy and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality agreed to move forward with DEQ’s preferred cleanup method to completely remove leaking waste ponds at the retired units and relocate them to another part of the company’s property. The ponds contain toxins like arsenic and span the equivalent of 200 football fields.

Talen had originally suggested closing the ponds in place and objected to DEQ’s cleanup method,calling it the most invasive and expensive option. This week’s settlement solidifies the tentative agreement the state and plant operator reached this summer.

The settlement requires Talen to pay a cleanup bond of $163 million, down from the $285 million the state asked the company to pay. The agreement also allows Talen two years to propose an alternative cleanup plan, but calls for the power plant operator to move forward on the cleanup in the meantime.

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