Progress In Montana: Utility Scraps Coal Plant For Low-Carbon Power

Recognizing the new era of “energy transformation,” a Montana electric utility has decided to “scrap its plans for a $900 million coal-fired power plant east of Great Falls and turn instead to renewable energy to meet the needs of its 65,000 Montana customers.”

Years ago, the Southern Montana Generation and Transmission Cooperative introduced plans to build the Highwood Generating coal-fired plant to satisfy the electricity needs of Great Falls, Montana. Today, CEO Tim Gregori announced “they are changing construction plans from a coal-fired facility to a natural gas and high wind producing plant.” This switch will dramatically reduce the pollution footprint of the facility, from soot to greenhouse gases, and will take less time to get up and running. Montana Environmental Information Center Program Director, Anne Hedges, announced, “This is a relief”:

It’s a relief to the land owners adjacent to the plant. It is a relief to people across the state and across the nation who are concerned about the direction of our climate.

MEIC, Citizens for Clean Energy, Earthjustice, and Sierra Club’s Move Beyond Coal campaign worked together for years to challenge the Highwood plant on its environmental impact, including its mercury and particulate matter pollution. The utility also recognized that the global warming emissions of coal give the fuel an “aura of uncertainty” — in other words, a large economic risk, as has been pointed out repeatedly by economic analysts. It no longer makes environmental nor economic sense to rely on 19th-century technology to power a 21st-century America.