Colstrip United: Hoping to Put A Human Face on Pending Coal Generation Plant Closures

Jan 23, 2017

Colstrip United co-founders Lori Shaw, L, Ashley Dennehy, C, and State Senator Duane Ankney, R, at a legislative reception at the Helena Great Northern Hotel.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

Bills to assist the town of Colstrip deal with the pending closure of 2 coal-fired power generation plants are working their way through the legislative process. Some Colstrip residents organized an evening reception for lawmakers to draw attention to the issue.

“It seemed like a perfect opportunity to meet a lot of them face-to-face for the first time and really show them what it is that makes Colstrip so important and so special to the entire state of Montana,” said Colstrip United co-founder Lori Shaw. She helped organize this gathering for legislators at the Helena Great Northern Hotel.

Shaw said she knows there are those who are against coal and aren’t sorry to see two more coal fired power plants shuttered.

“Today is a chance to meet with some everyday citizens that you might not get a chance to,” she said. “Just have an open heart and an open mind. That’s all we ask.”

“The people of Colstrip to matter,” added Ashley Dennehy, the other co-founder of Colstrip United. “And it’s important to consider them as we go forth. Colstrip has done a lot for the state and without Colstrip there would be a lot of people and a lot of programs that didn’t have what they needed to survive.”

Dennehy’s reference is to the property and income tax dollars schools, local governments, and the state have come to rely on, as well as the interest from the coal tax trust fund that pays for water and other public works projects, libraries, and the arts.

The future of that money is uncertain the out-of-state owners have announced they’re shutting down units 1 & 2 because their customers in Oregon and Washington don’t want electricity generated by coal.

State Senator Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, shares a laugh with Governor Steve Bullock at the legislative reception.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

State Senator Duane Ankney, one of the legislators sponsoring bills to address the aftermath, said his intent is not to be punitive against Puget Sound Energy and the other partners.

“But when you pull out there’s a hole that needs to be filled,” Ankney said. “And I think that it’s their obligation to help with filling this hole.”

He said the out of state corporations should also help the workers who will lose their jobs get retraining. The Republican also wanted to make sure the plant remediation is done properly.

Governor Steve Bullock, his Republican gubernatorial challenger Greg Gianforte in last fall’s election, Attorney General Tim Fox joined numerous legislators, 

Bozeman businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte and his wife Susan visit with attendees at the Colstrip United legislative reception
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

lobbyists and others in attendance at the reception.