Montana Environmental Information Center

Clean and healthful. It's your right, our mission.

Coal Plants in Montana

Pennsylvania Power’s Colstrip plant.

Coal fired power is the most polluting way to generate electricty, and burning coal in Montana is by far the largest source of industrial air pollution.  Coal is full of hazardous substances that, when burned, contaminate the air, the land, and the water. Other sources of electricity, including water, wind, and solar, do not have these environmental concerns.

When coal is burned, harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates are released into the air. These pollutants cause and aggravate respiratory diseases, damage lung tissue, and can lead to premature death. They can also harm vegetation, trees, crops, and water quality.

Montana has five existing coal-fired power plants, the largest being Pennsylvania Power’s Colstrip power plant in south central Montana. Proposals for new coal fired power facilities have diminished with rising environmental concerns and a requirement that all new coal-fired power facilities sequester 50% of their carbon emissions.

Current Coal Plants in Montana

  • Pennsylvania Power Colstrip Complex, 2,314 MW
  • Corette, 163 MW
  • Lewis and Clark Station, 50 MW
  • Hardin, 116 MW
  • Thompson Falls, 16 MW

Pennsylvania Power’s Colstrip plant is the second largest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi. Colstrip dwarfs other Montana emissions sources when considering Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, and Particulates. Colstrip is also the 8th largest polluter of C02 emissions in the U.S., at 17.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.

A report compiled by Tom Power, Professor Emeritus in the economics department at the University of Montana, noted an extremely minimal cost to ratepayers if Pennsylvania Power were required to install industry standard pollution control technology.