Colstrip's Power Plant

BILLINGS – The community of Colstrip will get up to $10 million dollars for community planning purposes as Puget Sound Energy moves ahead to decommission units 1 and 2 of the town’s coal-fired power plants.

The $10 million is part of a settlement agreement approved unanimously on Tuesday by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The settlement terms which were first reached in September established a financing mechanism for the utility to shut down the two oldest power plants by no later than 2022.  While the settlement does not set a shut-down date for units 3 and 4, it speeds up the time frame that PSEcan recover its costs by 18 years to 2027.

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As for the $10 million for community planning purposes, $5 million will be paid by PSE, and the other $5 million will come from the company’s shareholders.

The agreement calls on PSE to help develop a transition plan for the Colstrip community to help mitigate the impacts of closing the huge power plants. In addition, PSE will hold workshops to review the future of the transmission lines that currently carry Colstrip’s electrical load.

Puget Sound Energy, based in Bellevue, Wash., provides electricity to more than 1 million electric customers in eight Washington counties. The Colstrip plants employ 360 workers and generate up to 2,000 megawatts of power.

The company owns half of Colstrip units 1 and 2 and is one of six part-owners of units 3 and 4.

Tuesday’s settlement, which involved multiple parties, arose from a January request from Puget Sound Energy for the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to raise rates 7.6 percent.

The commission also approved Tuesday a 1 percent increase in electric rates for Puget Sound Energy, boosting electric revenues by $20 million, and a 3.9 percent decrease in natural gas rates, which will drop those revenues by $35 million.

MTN’s Jay Kohn