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Sen. Duane Ankney

DUANE ANKNEY

Montana legislator Duane Ankney will meet a member of the Trump administration next month in an attempt to save Colstrip. 

The Republican state senator from Colstrip will be in Washington, D.C., on March 5, according to a press release issued Wednesday.

“I want to thank Senator Steve Daines for helping make this possible,” Ankney said in the press release. “Colstrip is on the radar of President Trump and his administration. I know how important clean coal, jobs, and Montana are to President Trump. I have every reason to be confident that our meeting will be successful.”

Public records for NorthWestern show that 22 percent of the power generated by the company comes from Colstrip or the Dave Gates gas-fired power plant. The largest share of NorthWestern's power from owned generation comes from hydroelectric dams. A small portion is generated by wind farms. Another 18 percent of the electricty NorthWestern uses comes from a mix of third party sources, most significantly Colstrip stakeholder Talen Energy, which sells electricity on the open market.

Last August, the Trump EPA rolled out a new set of coal-friendly rules, replacing Obama policies. The “Affordable Clean Energy Rule” allows states to ease up on pollution regulations when enforcing the rules might result in costly upgrades for coal-fired power plants. Emissions were still expected to decline over time.

Colstrip has four generating units. The oldest two are scheduled for retirement no later than 2022 as part of a legal settlement with the Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center over air pollution.

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Its newer units went offline in late June after failing to clear federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS. Afterward, they burned out of compliance for 77 days, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The power plant's namesake community of 2,300 people has seen the life of its power plant challenged as utilities in Oregon and Washington face political pressure to abandon coal. The Westmoreland Coal Co. mine that feeds the power plant is in bankruptcy proceedings.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.