Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Contact: Seth Ballhorn (206) 378-0114 X302, cell (206) 218-3374
Doug Howell (206) 378-0114 X 304, cell (206) 450-6654  
Krista Collard, (415) 477-5619, cell (614) 622-9109



Puget Sound Energy’s Montana Coal Plant Violating Air Pollution Laws
Conservation Groups to Initiate Major Lawsuit

Seattle—For twenty years, the owners of Montana's coal fired power plant, Colstrip, have actively made alterations to the facility without installing the modern pollution controls required by the Clean Air Act. Both a serious violation of federal law and a menace to public health, Puget Sound Energy and the five other Colstrip owners were put on notice today that a major lawsuit by Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center will seek severe penalties for on-going violations and requirements for long overdue upgrades to the aging plant.

“For too long, Colstrip has been operating as one of the largest polluters in the U.S., fouling our air and water, and yet still has no plans to install the modern pollution controls widely in use across the country,” said Bruce Nilles, national director for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Today's legal action is the latest step in our nationwide campaign targeting owners of the Nation's aging coal fleet that have skirted their legal obligations. It's a national priority for the Sierra Club to uphold the health and environmental safeguards promised by the Clean Air Act for more than three decades." 

Although PSE is the single largest owner of the Colstrip Generating Facility, they are not the only bad actors violating the law. High profile companies like Portland General Electric, Avista, and Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp are also named in the pending lawsuit facing one of the nation's largest coal plants. Potential penalties and upgrade costs are likely to pile up to hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars.

“As a PSE customer, I don’t want my energy bills going toward propping up the largest global warming polluter in the Western U.S.,” said Eric Rehm, a climate and energy activist and Oceanographer on Bainbridge Island. “Do we want hundreds of millions of PSE dollars being sunk into dirty coal or do we want clean energy in Washington?”

The Colstrip coal-fired power plant is one of the oldest and largest producers of air pollution in the country, burning one railroad car of coal (100 tons) every five minutes. Smoke from burning coal aggravates lung disease such as asthma, sends toxins like mercury into air and water hundreds of miles away, and clouds vistas in downwind parks and forests.

“Puget Sound Energy is one of our clean energy leaders,” said Aaron Robins, chair of the Washington Sierra Club energy committee. “We want PSE to stop wasting money on coal, and be the clean energy leader we believe they are.”

The Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center filed a 60-day “notice of intent” in federal court demonstrating that they will legally challenge the owners of Colstrip over the allegations. Colstrip owners named are Pennsylvania Power and Light, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, Avista, PacifiCorp, and NorthWestern Energy. The suit will seek a court order to compel the owners to comply with the Clean Air Act, install modern pollution controls, and pay penalties. 

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