(SANDPOINT) The Idaho Conservation League urges Avista Corporation to strongly reconsider its plans for the Colstrip coal-fired power plant it partially owns in Montana.

Talen Montana, Colstrip’s owner/operator, announced June 11 it will permanently retire two of the plant’s four units by the end of this year, 2.5 years earlier than planned. The company’s president said that “financial challenges” make units 1 and 2 too expensive to operate, mostly due to the costs of coal. Avista owns 15% each in Colstrip units 3 and 4 and faces the same financial pressures.

Matt Nykiel, ICL’s North Idaho conservation associate, noted, “If Colstrip is too expensive for Talen, then it’s too expensive for Avista.” He added, “Instead of spending Idahoans’ money on equipment to prolong a failing plant, Avista should lay out an early transition away from coal.”  

Colstrip is facing bankruptcy, yet Avista’s plans have Idahoans paying for power from Colstrip well into the 2040s. Also, Avista announced earlier this year it would receive a $103 million termination fee from its failed Hydro One merger.

“Why not use this money to help workers and families at Colstrip transition to clean energy jobs, or invest the money proactively into cleanup of the site?” asked Ben Otto, ICL’s energy associate. “The accelerated retirement dates for units 1 and 2 should be a red flag to Avista and its ratepayers that we need to take moral and financially sound action now to blunt the impacts of sudden retirement of units 3 and 4, which Idaho is on the hook for.”

ICL has a long history of working toward eliminating Idaho’s reliance on coal-fired power plants. The nonprofit has worked closely and successfully with other community members and Avista in this area. Overall, one of ICL’s priorities in the energy area is to address climate change and have clean Idaho air by eliminating carbon emissions and air pollution.