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Talen Energy has agreed to pay at least $450,000 for violating federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards during the summer of 2018 when the Colstrip Power Plant violated clean air laws for more than 70 days.

The violation involved hazardous air pollutants other than mercury that are included in the federal MATS standard. Part of the money will pay for community projects under a settlement reached Monday. The Department of Environmental Quality announced the settlement early Monday evening.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe and the City of Colstrip will each get a chunk of that $450,000, since both groups were affected by the MATS violation. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe will receive up to $270,000 for a street sweeper. The City of Colstrip will receive up to $103,000 for a building to store road de-icer. The remaining $112,500 will be paid as a penalty to the State of Montana. That's a total of up to $485,500.

The air pollution violation shut down Colstrip Units 3 and 4 at the end of June 2018, when quarterly testing revealed that hazardous air pollution levels from Colstrip Units 3 and 4 were too high. Because the quarterly test was taken as the end of the three-month period finished in June 2018, it was unclear how long units had violated air standards during the previous three months.

Talen shut the units down, then fired them up intermittently for testing, before operating them out of compliance at reduced levels, sometimes alternating between the two, as it tried to fix the pollution problem from July into September.

Five of the power plant’s six owners are now asking to pass onto customers costs associated with the malfunctioning units. The expenses are in the millions of dollars.

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