A federal lawsuit filed today against Puget Sound Energy and other co-owners of a coal-energy plant in Montana alleges that the plant violates Clean Air Act standards.
The Colstrip coal-fired plant located east of Billings is the second-largest plant of its kind west of the Mississippi. PSE is its largest owner according the suit filed by the Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center.
The groups claim the plant burns one train car’s worth of coal every five minutes without modern pollution-control upgrades. Even with modern upgrades, the groups say, the plant would emit pollution equivalent to what 3 million automobles produce a year.
The suit asks for a court order that would require PSE and the other owners to install upgrades that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, or pay $37,500 in fines per day for violating pollution standards. Making modern coal-fired plant operations cost-prohibitive is part of a long-term plan to reduce coal-burning in general, according to Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club.
“When coal-owning utilities can no longer dump their pollution on unsuspecting customers for free, they realize sticking with coal is a gamble they can’t afford to risk,” Nilles said in a statement.
Puget Sound Energy spokesman Roger Thompson said the groups gave notice last summer that a lawsuit may be filed. He said he couldn’t comment on the individual accusations in the suit yet but could say, “We believe [the plant] is fully compliant with federal and state environmental laws.”
Thompson said he did not know how long it might take for PSE to submit a response to the suit.
Other owners of the plant include PPL Montana, Avista Corp., Portland General Electric Company, Northwestern Corp. and Pacificorp.