In a surprising turn of events Colstrip Units 1 and 2 will be going offline at the end of 2019, two and a half years sooner than recently anticipated. The reason is simple: The coal fired units are not economically viable. The closure of Units 1 and 2 could put increased pressure on Units 3 and 4, which are also fired by coal and therefore vulnerable to competition from energy sources such as cheap wind and solar power.

The community was caught off guard by the announcement. This development shows that the word of the utility owners can’t be trusted as Talen Energy has been repeatedly saying the plant would stay open until 2022.

The Colstrip community should not make the same mistake again. NorthWestern Energy is saying they will operate the Colstrip power plant until 2042. They make this reckless claim despite the fact that four of the other plant owners will be vacating the plant in the 2025-2030 time period and two of those will have to stop using coal electricity entirely because they are based in Washington state, which passed a law banning coal electricity there after 2025.

By sticking their head in the sand on the economics of coal power, NorthWestern Energy is doing a disservice to its customers and the community of Colstrip, which should be preparing workers right now for a future without the coal plant. Denying reality only puts local communities at risk.

Mary Sedwick