Legislators are considering legislation to help the citizens of Colstrip and the state of Montana weather the pending closure of 2 coal fired power plants by requiring the plants owners compensate the community for the economic loss.
Montana AFL-CIO spokesman Chris Cavazos said the intent of Senate Bill 338 is to help the workers and the community of Colstrip. He added it gives the out-of-state corporate owners a seat at the table to negotiate the decommissioning of Units 1 and 2. He said it’s part of corporate responsibility.
“It also allows these corporations to come to the table with our attorney general and our governor to negotiate a deal,” he said. In anticipating opponent’s testimony Cavazos said, “It’s laughable to call this kind of bill with corporate involvement punitive or antibusiness.”
But that is exactly the point of the opponents.
“The passage of punitive legislation only leads the decision makers at Talen to think, ‘Why should we sink more money here? Why should we desperately try to stay?’” said Jon Metropoulos, who spoke on behalf of Talen Energy, one of the plant’s co-owners. “Right now they want to stay and they want to stay for the state of Montana and for the community of Colstrip.”
He told legislators the utility is trying to figure out how to keep operating up until the agreed upon closure date in 2022.
“I hesitate to say this, but I have to be blunt Talen Energy is losing tens of millions of dollars a year,” he said.
He said unlike the other co-owners, Talen cannot pass on the costs contemplated in this bill on to its rate payers.
Other opponents viewed the bill as imposing an exit fee on a company for making a business decision. They said it would create a bad business climate that could affect other industries.
The 2,100 megawatt facility is one of the largest coal fired power plants in the West and supplies electricity to customers in the Pacific Northwest. Competition from lower cost power sources and mounting costs for pollution control have made the plants uneconomical.
The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee did not immediately vote on the bill.