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By Anne Hedges

In the 2019 Montana legislative session NorthWestern Energy made a bold move to “double down” on coal. Fortunately, its efforts failed. NorthWestern seems oblivious to the fact that states and utilities across the Pacific Northwest are phasing out coal-generated electricity, and will be “carbon-free” in the near future. The Colstrip power plant, one of the biggest greenhouse gas polluters in the nation, is primarily owned by utilities in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

Here’s an update on how nearby states are addressing coal and climate issues.  NorthWestern would be wise to take note, and change its outdated resource preferences.


You know times are a changin’ when Idaho’s Republican Governor Brad Little announces that he believes in climate change. He said: “the climate is changing, there’s no question about it.… It’s here. We’ve just got to figure out how we’re going to cope with it. And we’ve got to slow it down. Now, reversing it is going to be a big darn job.” In March 2019, Idaho’s biggest utility, Idaho Power, announced it would voluntarily go carbon-free by 2045, closing its coal plants in Nevada and Wyoming no later than 2035 and its unnatural gas plants by 2045. Idaho Power cites the low cost of solar electricity as the tipping point. Its CEO says this commitment will result in affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity. One owner of the Colstrip power plant operates in Idaho.


Washington became the fifth state to commit to 100% clean energy when it passed the most progressive clean energy bill in the nation in late April 2019. Three owners of the Colstrip plant operate in Washington State. The new law requires those utilities to be coal-free by 2025 and carbon-free by 2045.


Oregon’s legislative session isn’t over for another month, but the legislature is working to build on its previous commitment to decarbonize the state by passing a cap-and-trade bill similar to the one California has adopted. Two owners of the Colstrip plant operate in Oregon.


Nevada’s legislature just passed a law that requires 50% of electricity used in the state to be carbon-free by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2050. Although no owners of Colstrip operate in Nevada, this shows the direction the West is taking in regard to energy transition.

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