Legislator: Be ready to call a special session on Colstrip if needed

HELENA — If “worse came to worse” and lawmakers in either Washington or Oregon pass legislation that could lead to a partial shutdown of the coal-fired power plants in Colstrip, Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, wants Montana to be ready.

Legislators should have a draft bill to handle the fallout from the possible closure of Units 1 and 2 ready to go, Brenden said Wednesday as the Environmental Quality Council discussed the coal plant’s future.

Legislation expected to come before Washington state’s legislature early this year could pave the way for Puget Sound Energy, a utility that owns half of the older units, to close them. A legislative proposal in Oregon would remove Colstrip power from the portfolio of Portland General Electric’s portfolio by 2035.

“We need to draft a bill just in case the state of Montana needs it,” Brenden said. “I think we should be ready to call a special session.”

It takes a total of 76 legislators to call a special session; one can also be called by the governor. Brenden said Washington or Oregon passing legislation isn’t likely, but Montana lawmakers should be prepared.

“We cannot kill Montana’s economy and we can’t kill certain areas in Montana,” Brenden said. “It’s just too darn important.”

Colstrip is getting a lot of attention as both legislation from other states and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which requires Montana to cut its CO2 emissions nearly in half by 2030, bring into question the future operation of Colstrip’s older units.

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