Governor meets with executives over fate of Colstrip plant

By: 
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN

HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock convened a meeting at the state Capitol Wednesday with three Colstrip executives, as the debate over the coal-fired power plant plays out in his re-election campaign.

Competing forces — union jobs and clean energy — have turned Colstrip into a potentially potent issue in the governor's race. His meeting with the executives was a clear attempt to assert his leadership on the matter. But in the end, the future of the plant remained just as uncertain.

Bob Rowe, the chief executive of NorthWestern Energy, said his company is in no position to buy parts of the plant, as Bullock has suggested.

Bullock is putting together a group to look into finding a buyer for the plant's older units to stave off closure and the loss of union jobs.

Meanwhile, Talen CEO Paul Farr said his company was losing millions of dollars operating the plant. "We are under time and cross pressures," he said. "We're trying to see if there is a constructive path forward to try to have a resolution because the current situation can't go on a lot longer."

Bullock said he invited the CEOs to discuss ownership of the plant and how the state should address the complex issues surrounding Colstrip.

Kimberly Harris, Puget Sound Energy's CEO, said her company was looking far ahead into the future as it considers whether it should decommission the plant's two older units, which environmentalists say are outdated and responsible for spewing tons of carbon emissions.

Colstrip is expected to be a key point of attack by Republican Greg Gianforte as he attempts to evict Bullock from the governor's mansion.

"Yet another meeting. ... We need action," said Gianforte spokesman Aaron Flint. "He's failing to stand up for Colstrip and high-wage Montana jobs."

If the Colstrip plant were to close, it could mean a loss of more than 7,100 jobs and siphon more $500 million in Montana wages, according to a study by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

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