SB 338 (Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip)is disguised as a pro-worker bill and pro-Colstrip community bill, but it is anything but those things. SB 338 creates a false choice: workers versus the environment. Montana can and should protect the environment and help workers, but that won’t happen if SB 338 is passed. No efforts have been made to negotiate with the owners of the two smaller Colstrip units (note: 2/3 of the plant will remain operational for many years to come). Honest negotiations are a more reasonable approach and should be attempted before this radical, nationally unprecedented idea is put into law.
SB 338 is a nuclear option that will:
- discourage clean energy industry development across the state;
- increase carbon pollution as out-of-state utilities build new gas plant instead of Montana wind energy;
- discourage the very businesses that can provide new stable replacement jobs and revenue to Colstrip, the region, and the state; and
- cause out-of-state owners of Colstrip to purchase power, from anywhere except Montana.
SB 338 gives the town of Colstrip some short-term cash for the closure of the two smaller units at the plant. The other two larger units at Colstrip will continue to operate and employ most of the current workforce. Remediation work in the area will continue for decades to come and will employ many additional people. The transmission line in Colstrip that takes power to these west coast markets should be used to transport Montana’s clean energy, which is in high demand, to those markets. But SB 338 will send those utilities that are shopping for clean energy resources to other markets, such as building new gas in their or buying wind from their own states or Wyoming.
SB 338 is incredibly shortsighted. It discourages west coast utilities from doing business in Montana (i.e. investing in wind). This bill may appear to be a band-aid for Colstrip but really is a nuclear option that puts cleanup, jobs, and tax revenue in serious jeopardy, and future clean energy investments at risk.
In a nutshell, SB 338 will do three things that interfere with cleanup, harm workers, and discourage clean energy development:
- Lead to litigation by both owners, which could result in the bill being overturned.
- Lead to Talen Montana closing units 1 & 2 before the agreed upon date and probably declaring bankruptcy, leaving future cleanup of contamination at the site in jeopardy.
- Drive utilities and businesses interested in developing Montana’s clean energy resources to look to other, friendlier, less punitive states to purchase their power.
SB 338 is opposed by:
- Montana Environmental Information Center
- Renewable Northwest (a renewable energy business advocate)
- Northwest Energy Coalition (a regional coalition of utilities, environmentalists, clean energy developers, and regional energy wonks)