HELENA — A delegation of Montana lawmakers made their pitch to their counterparts in Washington state to save the coal-fired Colstrip power plant — or at least give them time to plan for a partial shutdown.
A bill before the Washington Legislature would authorize Colstrip’s largest owner, Puget Sound Energy, to file a plan to decommission Colstrip’s two oldest units, and to allow the utility to buy additional ownership in one of the two newer units.
The timing of the shutdown would be included in the plan to be filed with the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission in 2017. The newer Colstrip Units 3 and 4 would continue to operate if the other two are shut down, Puget Sound Energy officials said.
Four Montana lawmakers told a Washington state Senate committee even a partial shutdown would have dire economic consequences on the southeastern Montana community of Colstrip and on industrial users across the state that depend on cheap power from Colstrip Units 1 and 2.
Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, reminded the Washington lawmakers that the power plant’s electricity in the 1970s helped build their state into what it is today. Now, Montana needs time to plan how it will deal with losing a major economic driver like Colstrip, he said.
“Now one neighbor is going to turn to another neighbor and say, ‘You’re out, goodbye, we’re going to walk away from you?'” Ankney said. “I don’t think so.
“Treat us like a neighbor, help us out here,” he added.
Sen. Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek, warned that if the bill passes, Montana lawmakers would likely call a special session to propose legislation to protect Montana’s economy from the effect of a partial shutdown.
“We don’t want to get into dueling legislation. We want to work together,” Ripley said.