Montana gas power plant can resume construction, judge rules

By AP News

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NorthWestern Energy will resume construction of a natural gas power plant along Montana’s Yellowstone River following a two-month delay

Gas Power Plant Climate

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — NorthWestern Energy will resume construction of a natural gas power plant along Montana's Yellowstone River following a two-month delay, a company spokesperson said Friday, after a state judge revived a pollution permit for the project despite lingering concerns over its climate-changing emissions.

Work on the $250 million plant was largely halted in April when Judge Michael Moses cancelled its permit and said officials had failed to adequately consider the 23 million tons of greenhouse gases it would emit over several decades.

But Moses reversed his earlier order late Thursday while an appeal from NorthWestern is pending before the Montana Supreme Court. The judge cited a “changing legal landscape” that includes a new state law that eliminated a requirement for state officials to look at climate impacts from emissions.

Moses said restoring the permit also could help avoid future cost increases to customers of Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based NorthWestern, which had warned that the construction delay would drive up the project's price.

Many utilities across the U.S. have replaced coal power with less-polluting natural gas plants in recent years. But the industry remains under pressure to abandon fossil fuels altogether as climate change worsens.

The Montana plant would produce up to 175 megawatts of electricity. Its air permit was challenged in a 2021 lawsuit from the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club.

“We need that additional capacity in Montana, dedicated to serving our Montana customers, for both reliability and affordability,” said Jo Dee Black, a spokesperson for Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based NorthWestern.

The plant is expected to begin serving customers sometime next year, Black said. It would ensure enough electricity is available at times of high demand, such as on hot days or cold nights.

To prevent the worst of climate change’s future harms, including even more extreme weather, the head of the United Nations recently called for rich countries to quit coal, oil and gas by 2040.

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Author: AP News

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