The Billings Outpost

Colstrip sued for pollution

By DEBORAH COURSON SMITH - Big Sky Connection

HELENA – The Colstrip coal plant is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed this month. The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Sierra Club filed the case, alleging the plant emits too much pollution and requesting fines of more than $37,000 a day. The case is based on the federal Clean Air Act. 

Anne Hedges, MEIC program director, said the pollution is not new. She explained that when modifications are made to older plants, they are supposed to be upgraded for better pollution control and go through a permitting process.

“This is a case we have been investigating for years,” she said, “finding that all four units at the facility have been modified in a way that required them to go through a permitting process, and they did not do so.”

The owners of Colstrip have stated that changes at the plant were routine maintenance, and therefore it was not required to be upgraded for pollution control under the Clean Air Act.

According to Hedges, the intent of requiring pollution controls is not only to protect public health, but also to even the playing field with newer coal plants that have to, by law, install pollution controls. 

“They can do better,” she said. “Other facilities are doing better, and we want them to do better, too.”

Puget Sound Energy is the largest owner of Colstrip, but other companies are also being charged in the case, including Avista, Portland General Electric, Northwestern Energy and Pennsylvania Power and Light.The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Seattle.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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