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By Eric Dietrich and Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press

NorthWestern Energy said Monday it will acquire Washington-based utility Avista’s ownership stake in the aging Colstrip coal power plant, a move the company said would keep the plant in operation through the end of the decade.

NorthWestern, Montana’s dominant power utility, has been trying for several years to expand its stake in Colstrip, which is owned in part by Washington- and Oregon-based companies that have been planning a 2025 exit in the face of their states’ climate action targets.

John Hines, NorthWestern’s vice president of energy supply and government affairs, announced the acquisition Monday evening at a legislative reception organized by the company and others on behalf of the community of Colstrip, the southeast Montana town where the plant is a major employer.

“We have entered into an agreement with Avista where we’re going to be acquiring all their shares, output in units three and four,” Hines said to cheers from a crowd of lawmakers, lobbyists, state officials and others who filled the ballroom of Helena’s Great Northern Hotel.

The agreement, Hines said, was signed this week and will bring NorthWestern’s stake in Colstrip to a total of 444 megawatts as of Jan. 1, 2026.

Hines added that the transaction doesn’t require immediate action by the Montana Public Service Commission, the state’s utility regulation board, or action by the Legislature in order to move forward.

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