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By Tom Lutey, Billings Gazette

Colstrip Power Plant

A Supreme Court decision limiting EPA powers to steer energy companies away from coal-fired power plants is unlikely to change the trajectory of Montana energy.

The Court’s conservative majority Thursday rejected the EPA’s dormant policy of using carbon emission caps to steer energy companies into cleaner generation, meaning either natural-gas burning power plants or renewable energy. The policy was part of former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which proposed state-level carbon emissions reductions, which in Montana were nearly impossible to meet without at least reducing power from coal-fired power plants, namely Colstrip.

As the Justices noted in their ruling, the Clean Power Power Plan was never put into practice. Attorneys general from multiple states, including former Montana AG Tim Fox, secured a Supreme Court injunction against CPP in 2016 before it could be used. Later, former President Donald Trump’s administration repealed the Clean Power Plan. But what remained undecided was whether the EPA’s “best system of emissions reduction” was within the powers given to the agency under the Clean Air Act of 1970.

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