Colstrip senator talks White House trip to lobby for coal plant

Posted at 3:42 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 18:25:14-04

BILLINGS- Montana state Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, traveled to Washington D.C. this week to talk to officials with the Trump administration about the future of the Colstrip coal plant.

Ankney met with officials from the Energy Department, the State Department, and the White House and said Friday the meetings went well.

“Our thrust was to stress the importance of having Colstrip strip units three and four around as baseload energy to back up renewables,” he told KTVQ.

The future of the plant’s two newest units, 3 and 4, has been in jeopardy since the state of Washington decided to wean itself off of coal and other fossil fuels. The majority of the power from the units goes to the Pacific Northwest and customers in Montana buy a much smaller portion.

Colstrip is owned by six utilities. Two of them, Avista Corp. and Puget Sound Energy, have targeted 2027 as a likely closure date for the plant as it hits the end of its useful life.

Ankney says making sure there is dependable power is a matter of national security, with more than a dozen military installations in the Northwest.

“They know the need to keep the power on and the lights on in the Northwest so hopefully we will (get) something out of this,” says Ankney.

Ultimately, he hopes that will be something that keeps Colstrip up and running.

“I’d like to see these coal plants—units three and four—be designated as baseload plants and that they continue to run. And I hope we get that port out of Washington so that we can export some coal to those nations like South Korea and Japan that want our coal very much,” Ankney said.

Reporting by Russ Riesinger for MTN News