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By Ted McDermott, Helena Independent Record

For a while there, Ed Joiner thought Colstrip was dead.

For nearly half a century, the county seat of Eastern Montana’s Rosebud County, where Joiner serves as a commissioner, has been powered by coal, which has been mined on one side of town and burned on the other.

For decades, the more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity that coal generated was sent west, to Washington and Oregon, where it helped power Seattle, Portland and Spokane. While the electricity went elsewhere, the plant’s power was also felt in town, where it generated hundreds of good-paying union jobs and helped fill the coffers of the state and local governments.

So when Oregon lawmakers passed a climate law in 2016 that required utilities to stop buying coal-generated electricity by 2030 and Washington lawmakers passed similar legislation a few years later with a deadline five years sooner, it seemed like they were signing Colstrip’s death warrant, Joiner said.


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