Posted: Sep 21, 2012 5:47 PM by Victoria Fregoso - Q2 News
Updated: Sep 21, 2012 10:45 PM
What can be done to prevent the mothballing of PPL Montana's Billings plant? That's what Big Sky Economic Development wants to know.
"We pay attention to retaining jobs just as much as we pay attention to growing jobs," said Steve Arveschoug, Executive Director of Big Sky Economic Development. "So the potential to lose these jobs is important to us."
PPL Montana, local businesses and organizations met Friday afternoon to brain storm on what could be done. The possibility of a deadline extension was mentioned. It would give PPL Montana more time to get the required upgrades. But in order to keep the plant open, energy prices would have to increase by 30% from what they are now.
"So when they're in a position where they think conditions might warrant an extension, we want to be supportive of their request for that extension if and when it might make sense," Arveschoug said.
Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg is also chiming in. He is now backing up HR 3409, an act that would ease regulations on power plants. In a press release issued today, he said "Someone's got to stand up for the families who already spend too much on energy and can't afford to pay more."
The plant has also caught the attention of the Northern Plains Resource Council. "It is part of a larger transition we are seeing in the country to cleaner sources of energy," said Ed Gulick with Northern Plains Resource Council.
With the switch in power source demand, the Northern Plains Resource Council sees it as employment opportunity in other fields.
"We're happy to hear that there are jobs being created in renewable energy like wind and solar in energy efficiency areas. And since there's a few years before this needs to be implemented, we hope they'll have jobs in those areas."
If PPL Montana decides to make the required upgrades, it says construction would take two years. That means the company would need to start working on the upgrades by this coming spring to avoid mothballing the plant.