A day after Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law two bills seeking to extend the life of the Colstrip power plant, one of the last remaining coal-fired generating stations in the Northwest, four of the facility’s owners opposed to the legislation fired back with a lawsuit against two owners in support.
Puget Sound Energy Inc., Avista Corp., PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric Co. filed a complaint May 4 in U.S. District Court in Billings, Mont., against NorthWestern Corp. and Talen Montana LLC, an affiliate of Talen Energy Corp., asking the court to determine that Senate Bill 265 is unconstitutional on state and federal levels because it interferes with a 40-year-old ownership and operation agreement.
“The state of Montana is unconstitutionally interfering into a longstanding, private business contract,” Steve Secrist, general counsel of Puget Sound Energy, said May 4 in an emailed statement. “This is both illegal and detrimental to finding constructive, long-term solutions regarding Colstrip.”
The four plaintiffs own a majority of the two remaining units of the plant, totaling 1,480 MW. Two older units retired in January 2020.
Because both NorthWestern and Talen testified in support of the legislation, the plaintiffs cited their “legitimate and reasonable concern” that the defendants would seek to invalidate parts of the ownership contract.