Four years ago, President Barack Obama campaigned on eliminating coal from America’s energy mix. And, unlike many campaign promises, this one is coming true.

Last month, Billings was shaken when we learned that the Corette coal-fired electrical generator in Yellowstone County will be shut down due to new Obama administration regulations. What has been happening in many other parts of the country, but we thought would never happen here, hit us squarely where it hurts: in our community and economy.

Corette isn’t the first generator that is being mothballed due to the Obama administration’s War on Coal. Already, 204 generating facilities in 25 states – representing 31 gigawatts of generating capacity – will go off line as a direct result of a barrage of carefully implemented new Environmental Protection Agency rules aimed at ending coal production and use.

For Montanans, the Corette announcement is a wake-up call – and a call to action.

Sixty percent of Montana’s electricity comes from coal. At 154 megawatts, enough to power 100,000 homes, Corette represents a significant share of our energy mix that will now have to be replaced. With little hope that anyone will be able to build a new coal-fired plant to replace the affordable power we get from Corette, the likely result will be that electricity for Montana will come from other, possibly out-of-state sources, causing our prices here in Montana to spike in coming years.

And Corette isn’t the only plant in Montana that is in jeopardy. Obama’s EPA already has additional proposed regulations on the drawing board aimed at power plants like the larger Colstrip generators. Piling several of these regulations on top of each other causes the compliance costs to skyrocket, making it nearly impossible for many existing power generators to stay in business.

For Obama and his politically motivated EPA supporters, that’s the whole point.

Losing Corette put 35 hard-working Montanans out of work. The ripple effect of its closure will doubtlessly lead to further job losses in other parts of our community. If Obama succeeds in his War on Coal and other Montana generators close, hundreds of jobs will be lost directly at the plants. And if America’s domestic market for coal shrivels as a result of generators closing here and across the country, then we’ll lose thousands of high-wage mining, railroad and other jobs right here in Montana.

This comes at a time when Montana is in the critical first stages of an energy boom that can create thousands of new jobs. Not to mention the increased tax revenues that go along with more Montana coal production. Sadly, we’re heading in the opposite direction.

Besides the hardship visited on those 35 Montanans and their families, losing Corette represents a loss of $2 million in property tax revenue a year for Yellowstone County. That’s money that goes to our schools, our roads, water and sewer infrastructure, and all the other important services government provides for our community. That’s $2 million that will be very difficult to replace.

Make no mistake, Obama and the environmental activists entrenched in his administration and the EPA know exactly what they are doing. Closing Corette wasn’t an “unintended consequence” – it was the plan.

To stop this assault on our communities and our economy, we need the help and support of the people we’ve sent to Washington to look out for our interests. Right now, we’re not getting that kind of representation from our senators and we need to change that.

Our own Sen. Jon Tester was warned that these new EPA regulations that are forcing Corette to close would be devastating to Montana coal-fired generators, but he voted for them anyway.

We have a right to expect better from our elected representatives and, right now, we need it desperately if we’re to head off the Obama/EPA onslaught. Tester needs to know three things:

1. That he made a mistake that will cost 35 Montanans their livelihoods for no good reason.

2. That we know it.

3. That we expect him to work now to stop these regulations and protect our Montana coal and energy industries.

When we elected Tester, we sent him to protect our interests. In this case he failed. He has a responsibility to make it right.

Mack Long is the Republican candidate for Senate District 26, which includes the Corette generating facility.

(6) comments

Old Time Show
Old Time Show

Pure hogwash, and completely politically motivated. Pennsylvania Power made a well timed political decision to shutter a plant that was out of date, and not making them money.

russ doty
russ doty

Mack: The reason for the Corette Plant closing are not primarily due to regulations that would require NorthWestern to make it cleaner. Energy from natural gas and wind is cheaper than energy from coal and NorthWestern just put in a new gas plant and wind turbines that it has to pay for. They have to be used and useful in order to be in the rate base. Corette is likely fully depreciated and therefore not in the rate base or almost completely out of the rate base.
Also, here is how you recover that revenue for all of Montana, not just Yellowstone county taxpayers. Require NorthWestern to stop overcharging for street lighting and to use the overcharge to install LED street lights that will cut nighttime energy use by more than 50%. The overcharge in Montana is $2.1/year. Los Angeles has already installed 98,690. The other way would be to install wind turbines in Yellowstone County--something all but one Republican voted against when the Green Electricity Buying Cooperative needed state legislation to take advantage of Clean Renewable Energy Bond funding it had obtained to place $15 million in wind turbines near Molt in Yellowstone County.

russ doty
russ doty

That should read $2.1 million/year. My apologies.

russ doty
russ doty

Great link by old time show. Makes my post look incomplete--and rightly so. Just to clarify. NorthWestern buys electricity from PPL (who owns the Corette Plant). The reduction in demand from Northwestern purchases of power from PPL via Corette reduces the demand and need for power from Corette because NorthWestern is producing more of its power from other sources..


Republicans seem to be unable to grasp even the most basic economic concepts. Slashing taxes for America's Billionaires while waging $3 Trillion in unfunded wars is bankrupting our country. Forbidding the Federal Goverment from negotiating bulk discounts with Big Pharma and forbidding citizens from purchasing significantly cheaper drugs from abroad flies in the face of Free Market Capitalism. Allowing the Wall Street banking cartels to illegally forge property title documents with impunity will destroy the system of private property that has existed in this country for over 350 years.

How about the basic principle of supply and demand? Widespread unregulated fracking has lead to a vast supply of extremely cheap natural gas. Natural gas is much cheaper and cleaner (at least when burned) than coal. The free market has decided that using natural gas instead of coal makes more economic sense.

Montana relies heavily on tourism. Ensuring that our air is clean and clear provides a measurable economic value to the state. If Republicans had their way, America's air would be as poisonous as the air in the industrial cities of unregulated China.

The GOP's tactics of using fear, lies, and disinformation is wearing quite thin.

SME's natural gas-fired power plant near Great Falls officially opens

Cheap natural gas drives down coal industry
Coal is in a struggle with a perfect adversary: ultracheap natural gas. With all the shale reserves unlocked by fracking, gas prices have steadily declined since mid-2008, to the point where they're hovering around $2 per million British thermal units for the first time in a decade. That's lower than coal prices.


Mack - you state "That’s $2 million that will be very difficult to replace.". Actually, that $2 million is very easy to replace. Yellowstone County will simply raise the mil rate to make up for the lost revenue and all property owners will see an increase in their taxes.

The same thing will happen in any County that loses a major revenue stream.

Beware of voting for Tester and Obama - it could be your property taxes (or rent) that goes up next.

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