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Montana Regulators Say Bonds In Place For Colstrip Cleanup, Lawmakers Skeptical

Four stacks from the Colstrip power plant stick up into a blue sky
Eric Dietrich
Montana Free Press
Four stacks from the Colstrip power plant stick up into a blue sky.

Montana regulators say they expect to have $400 million in bonds in place by July to cover future cleanup costs at the Colstrip power plant.


But state lawmakers expressed skepticism over that time frame after regulators failed to meet previous deadlines to secure the money.

At a meeting of the Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee Jan. 13, Democratic Senator Janet Ellis of Helena asked how the state Department of Environmental Quality could ensure it’ll have bonds in hand by the end of the fiscal year.

“You may recall, I’ve done bills in 2017 and 2019 and I was promised that the surety bonds would be in place by the end of 2017 and then by the end of 2019, and neither of those have happened,” Ellis said. 

A DEQ representative told her part of the reason is that the department is waiting on the power plant owners.

The coal-fired plant in southeastern Montana closed two of its four units earlier this month.

Plans are being made to clean up huge volumes of contaminated water that leaked from ponds that were used to store ash from the coal burned at Colstrip. That work is expected to cost $400 million to $700 million.

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