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Montana Coal Plant Proposals

Montana Coal Plant News

Montana currently receives approximately 54 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, and plans are in place to build more. Here is a list of the current proposals. Follow the links to find out more about each proposal and what efforts are underway to oppose them:

1. Hardin
2. Thompson River

1. Hardin

Location: Hardin

Company: MDU Resources Group/MT-ND Utilities

Type: Conventional pulverized coal

Megawatts (MW): 110

Customer: Merchant

More information: In 2005, the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) challenged the air permit for Hardin due to inadequate mercury standards imposed on the plant. An agreement was reached between the two parties, stating that Hardin will be a test facility for mercury controls during the first three years of its operation, and during 18 months of that period, a mercury control technology must be installed. With this agreement, the plant began commercial operation in March 2006.

Contact: Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center at Anne Hedges or 406-443-2520.

2. Thompson River

Location: Thompson Falls

Company: Thompson River Co-Gen

Type: Conventional pulverized coal and wood waste

Megawatts (MW): 12

Customer Merchant

More information: The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permitted this 12.5 megawatt power plant near Thompson Falls in 2001 as a coal and wood waste burning facility. Despite a local abundance of wood waste – a cleaner-burning alternative to coal – developers planned to design the plant to rely primarily on coal which would arrive by rail from Roundup. In September 2003, Thompson River Co-Gen (TRC) requested an amendment to its permit to allow for a larger 16 MW plant and was granted a second permit in 2004. While TRC returned to the state for additional permit changes, the Montana DEQ conducted an onsite inspection at Thompson River and discovered that TRC had begun construction on its revised plans 498 days before it would be granted the permit to do so. In July 2005, the DEQ and TRC agreed to a penalty of $106,400 – only a small portion of what the state is entitled to for this type of violation. In September 2005, after granting TRC’s request to relax its air permit conditions, the DEQ issued a second violation letter for the company’s failure to comply with its permit. Within days, TRC had halted operations and was given ultimately given a penalty of $1,894,200. Based on the company’s alleged inability to pay the initial sum, the DEQ announced a settlement in November 2007 that drastically reduced the company’s fine from $1,894,200 to a mere $200,000. In response to TRC’s failure to disclose financial statements and divulge their financial dealings with the state, Montana Environmental Information Center joined with the Clark Fork Coalition and Thompson Falls residents in asking the Governor to launch an investigation of TRC's legal compliance as well as their dealings with the DEQ.

Contact: Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center at Anne Hedges or 406-443-2520.