By Arren Kimbel-Sannit

The mining company that supplies the Colstrip power plant with coal is requesting that Gov. Greg Gianforte veto legislation that would exempt the plant operator from compliance with certain state environmental regulations if it seeks to alter fuel sources used at the plant, meaning that Colstrip would circumvent environmental and economic impact reviews, among other requirements.

Westmoreland Mining Chief Operating Officer Joe Micheletti wrote Gianforte on May 7 asking him for a veto on House Bill 648, a bill initially introduced to fund energy studies that lawmakers quietly amended late in the last session to exempt large electric generation facilities from the requirement that they request an amendment to their air and environmental certificate under the Montana Major Facility Siting Act if they pursue an alternative fuel source, including coal from other sources.

In plain language, Micheletti wrote, this would essentially allow Talen Energy, the firm that operates Colstrip, to acquire coal from a source other than the Rosebud Mine — likely in Wyoming, where Colstrip owners have looked to in the past — that has supplied the plant for years “without any administrative or regulatory process examining not just the environmental impacts, but the social and economic impacts of that decision.”

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