Even Montana State Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) realizes that the coal-fired generators, units one and two, won’t be around that much longer:
“The coal miner side in me says run those sons of a guns until 2070. The reasonable side of me says 2025-2030,” Montana Public Radio reports.
I’m thinking the closures may come sooner. Washington state, a big purchaser of electricity from Colstrip, is mounting a carbon tax ballot initiative and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is talking about a cap on carbon emissions.
Then there are the EPA’s proposed limits on carbon dioxide, as much as a 47 percent decrease in emissions that could be required in Montana.
Another blow is a decrease in demand from the importers of coal. This from the Spokesman Review:
Montana’s largest coal producer expects to reduce shipments to Asia next year through a West Coast port, as exports of the fuel from the United States continue to slide and coal producers face mounting pressure because of new pollution regulations and cheap natural gas.
All this adds up to coal not being the attractive energy source it’s been in the past, making solar, wind and hydro a lot more viable.
In anticipating the shift to cleaner energy sources, it would be wise to plan ahead for the employees at Colstrip and surrounding mines: job training and employment opportunities in alternative energy production and related technologies. Working with the Crow Tribe to mitigate the loss of income from coal mining is also a must.
There’s been mention of the loss of revenue state coffers would suffer from the demise of coal mining. But as Montana State Senator and former University of Montana professor of economics Dick Barrett (D-Missoula) points out, coal taxes don’t really contribute that much. If you add all the revenue that the state gets from taxes, fees, the federal government, etc., you get about $8 billion. Only .9 percent of that comes from coal. Check out the chart on Barrett’s blog that puts it in perspective.
It’s not looking good for coal these days, and while that’s great news for the planet, we must plan ahead for those whose livelihoods depend on the industry.