Colstrip power plants
LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

Washington regulators have approved a legal settlement that would have Colstrip’s largest owner ready to close the power plant by 2027, with $10 million set aside to help the community transition.

The Washington Utility and Transportation Commission on Tuesday approved the settlement, which was struck by Puget Sound Energy and several intervening parties in September. The Agreement aligns Puget Sound’s closure plans with those of Colstrip’s other utility owners in Oregon and Washington who are circling 2030 as the end of Colstrip’s “useful life.” Puget is agreeing to begin billing customers now for the closure of Units 3 and 4, with funds ready to go by 2027.

The settlement puts the end of the "useful life" of Units 3 and 4 at Dec. 31, 2027. However, Puget has hinted the power plant could operate longer.

The settlement also includes money to help the Colstrip community transition away from a coal-energy economy.

Natural gas and renewable energy are expected to fill the void as Puget Sound Energy transitions from coal.

Five years ago, Colstrip’s utility owners were in agreement that Units 3 and 4 would burn into the 2040s. But environmentally conscious consumers in Oregon and Washington began demanding changes. Oregon lawmakers in 2016 passed a law requiring PacifiCorp to stop supplying coal power to the state by 2030. The law required the same of Portland General Electric by 2035.

PGE has since estimated Colstrip’s useful life to end by 2030. PacifiCorp is required to do the same. Avista Corp., a Spokane, Washington, utility, now puts the life expectancy of Units 3 and 4 at 2037.

This year, communities in Puget Sound Energy’s service area have been demanding that the utility get out of Colstrip. In Seattle-anchored King County mayors of 14 cities have signed a “strategic climate action plan” to phase-out coal power by 2025.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.