BILLINGS – Talen Montana, the owner of the coal-fired energy plant in Colstrip, announced Tuesday that it was closing its two older units permanently by the end of the year.
The announcement follows previous plans to keep the units open into 2022.
“The decision to retire Colstrip Units 1 and 2 comes after extensive review and exhaustive efforts over the last few years to address the financial challenges that these units face,” Dale Lebsack, Talen Montana President, said in a press release issued Tuesday. “The plant team has done a great job of responding to the challenges faced by Units 1 and 2, but we have been unsuccessful in making the units economically viable. Fuel constitutes the bulk of our operating cost, and our repeated efforts to negotiate lower fuel prices with Westmoreland Rosebud Mining, the plant’s sole and only historically permitted fuel supplier, have been rebuffed. Rather than working with us to keep Units 1 and 2 open, Westmoreland is proposing to increase the units’ fuel cost going forward.”
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The press release states Talen Montana will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure the retirement process is orderly and minimizes the effect on employees, community members and other key stakeholders. Talen Montana will look to redeploy affected Colstrip employees to work on Unit 1 and 2 retirement activities or the operation and maintenance of Units 3 and 4.
“Going forward, as operator of the Colstrip plant, Talen Montana’s primary focus will be to ensure that Colstrip Units 3 and 4 remain an economically viable source of safe, reliable power to Montana and the Northwest U.S.,” the press release states.
Last October, Westmoreland Coal announced it was filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy, which threw its agreement to supply coal to Colstrip coal from its Rosebud mine in flux. The company emerged from bankruptcy this spring, although with a new investor group in charge of its assets, including the Rosebud mine.
The group agreed to continue Westmoreland’s sale agreement through the end of the year but made no promises of an extension.
Gov. Steve Bullock released a statement following the announcement:
“Markets and consumer preferences continue to move away from coal, yet this news comes quicker than anticipated. Today our priority is taking care of workers and their families who will be impacted by these closures. The community of Colstrip has powered our country for generations and it’s important the folks in that community are supported.”