July 25, 2018 Read More →

Emissions force Talen to take Colstrip coal units offline

Billings Gazette:

Colstrip Power Plant, one of the largest electricity generators in the northwestern United States, has been shut down for at least a month because of air pollution problems, The Billings Gazette has learned.

Talen Energy, which operates the plant, is trying to dispel rumors that newer portions of the four-generator power plant have been permanently shut down after failing to comply with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. None of the power plant’s four units are effectively functioning currently.

The details were disclosed to The Gazette in a leaked email, which was written by Colstrip Plant Manager Neil Dennehy. “There is no truth in the rumor that the units will be permanently shut down due to this issue,” Dennehy wrote.

Neither Dennehy nor Talen Media Relations Manager Todd Martin responded to Gazette interview requests Tuesday. But Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality confirmed Colstrip’s shutdown over air pollution problems that began at least 28 days ago. That’s when Talen notified the state that its newer generators, Colstrip Units 3 and 4, were emitting Hazardous Air Pollutants, or HAPs, at unsafe levels.

Talen shut the units down so it could figure out what went wrong. Since then, the units have fired up only for testing. On July 10, Talen informed the state that its HAPs were still too high. HAPs are pollutants that are known to cause cancer or suspected of causing cancer or other serious health problems like birth defects. The toxic ingredients include lead, cadmium, chromium and other compounds.

Dennehy said in his email that Talen would not operate the units out of compliance. By coincidence, Colstrip’s two other generating units are shut down for scheduled maintenance, leaving the power plant completely nonoperational.

Right now without Colstrip electricity, those utilities are buying electricity on the spot market and doing so without interruption, sometimes at prices lower than the cost of Colstrip power. All six of Colstrip’s owners own other generating facilities, ranging from hydroelectric dams to wind farms and natural gas plants.

More: Colstrip Power Plant shut down to address unsafe pollution emission, scheduled maintenance

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