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Trump energy secretary tours Colstrip

Posted at 11:10 AM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 13:10:32-04

For the first time ever, the nation's energy czar paid a visit Colstrip, Montana.

Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette toured both the Colstrip power plants and the nearby Rosebud coal mine Friday morning, in a visit mixing policy and politics.

Brouillette's visit Friday came at the invitation of Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

At its peak, the Rosebud Mine produced 13 million tons of coal per year. Today, that number has dropped to around 6 million tons.

Brouillette used his visit to tout the Trump Administration's "all-of-the-above energy strategy" that envisions coal mining and carbon capture technology into the foreseeable future. It also includes renewables, such as wind and solar, along with nuclear power.

While a focus of Friday's visit was the importance of coal jobs and new carbon capture technology, there was no timeline offered or estimate on what that might cost. Also absent from the discussion: any mention of climate change or potential clean-up jobs at Colstrip.

The leaking coal ash ponds at the power complex requires the city of Colstrip to pump its drinking water from the Yellowstone River, 30 miles away. According to a 2019 study, that clean up could take 30 years or longer, and provide hundreds of jobs.

Colstrip state Sen. Duane Ankney said he has his doubts, saying, "You can get a study to say anything."

Brouillette also toured the Colstrip Power Plants, where Units 1 & 2 now sit idle after their shutdown last year. Both his tour of the coal mine and the power plants was not open to the media.

The secretary's visit did attract the top echelon of Montana Republicans on this year's ballot, Daines, who is seeking re-election, Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is running for governor, and State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who is seeking to replace Gianforte in the House. All were eager to be part of this photo opportunity with a member of the president's Cabinet.

Westmoreland is seeking a new state permit to open up additional acres for mining that would extend the life of the Rosebud Mine another seven years. The public comment period on the proposal ends Nov. 23.