Governor Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox will convene the first meeting Monday of the advisory group formed to address the impact of the closure of two coal-fired power plants in Colstrip. This panel will help guide the disbursement of $10 million of economic impact funds provided by the owners of the Colstrip Generating Facility.
The news that the out-of-state owners of Units 1 & 2 will shut down the plants by 2022 rocked the southeast community and the coal industry when it was first announced. Now the work begins to deal with the aftermath of the news.
"I grew up in the area," says state Senator Jason Small, R-Busby. The journeyman boilermaker is also president of the trade's union. "I’ve got a lot of roots in the area. I’m definitely there. My guys are there. I’m raising a family in the area. I’m affected."
He says many ideas are being tossed around on how to deal with the impact of the closure. His concern is for the workers who will be displaced, "And some of the property owners and stuff like that. I’m hoping for a good outcome."
The closure announcement came after utility customers in Oregon and Washington said they no longer wanted electricity from coal-fired generation. The companies said it was no longer profitable to keep these aging plants running.
Puget Sound Energy, a part owner, set aside $10 million for Colstrip to soften the blow of the closure of Colstrip Units 1 and 2. The money is expected to become available at the end of the year.
In mid-December, State Attorney General Tim Fox and Governor Steve Bullock last month announced the formation of the advisory group.
- Adam Schafer, Governor’s Office (co-chair)
- Jon Bennion, Attorney General’s Office (co-chair)
- Puget Sound Energy representative
- John Williams, Colstrip Mayor
- Doug Martens, Rosebud County Commissioner
- State Senator Duane Ankney
- State Representative Geraldine Custer
- Jim Atchison, Southeastern Montana Development Corporation
- State Senator Jason Small, President Boilermakers 11 at Colstrip
- Stacey Yates, Business Manager IBEW 1638 at Colstrip
- Wally McRae, Colstrip area rancher
- Director Pam Haxby-Cote, or Designee, Montana Department of Commerce
- Director Tom Livers, or Designee, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
- Commissioner Galen Hollenbaugh, or Designee, Montana Department of Labor and Industry
"Often the best outcomes really come from folks sitting around the table and rolling up their sleeves and saying, ‘what is the best way to go,'" says Bullock. He says he's excited to kick off the first meeting with Attorney General Tim Fox.
Bullock says while he may have thoughts about how to keep Colstrip vibrant, it’s more important to start the discussion by listening to the community and he expects that’s will be the focus of Monday’s meeting.