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State reaches agreement with Colstrip operator on $163M cleanup plan

Colstrip w sign.jpg
Posted at 5:32 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 19:32:51-04

The operator of the Colstrip power plant has reached an agreement with Montana regulators on a cleanup plan for the coal ash ponds of the plant's units 1&2, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced Tuesday.

The $163 million settlement would require operator Talen Energy to dig out 6.7 million cubic yards of contaminated coal ash from the 330-acre pond area and place it in a lined landfill above the water table, according to the state.

The Department of Environmental Quality under former Gov. Steve Bullock had initially estimated a roughly $285 million price tag a year ago for the cleanup, which prompted an objection from Talen.

The new amount, $163 million, was set by regulators working for current Gov. Greg Gianforte, and they said in a news release that the settlement still covers all the cleanup and allows Talen to evaluate one alternative cleanup option.

The $163 million cost will be reviewed annually to ensure it remains adequate to cover the entire cleanup, according to DEQ.

Talen officials have yet to comment on the plan.

Units 1 & 2 were retired at Colstrip in 2019. Supporters of the cleanup plan have said they hope it could bring high-paying jobs to the area to partially offset the loss of workers at the power plant.

DEQ is holding a public meeting 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Colstrip Parks and Recreation Meeting Room at 110 Park Ave. to discuss the cleanup plan. Participants may join in person or virtually. Click here for how to access the meeting by Zoom or phone.