Power Plants are Montana’s Largest Source of Carbon Pollution

Media Releases

Environment Montana

HELENA – A new report from Environment Montana Research & Policy Center finds that power plants are Montana’s single largest source of global warming pollution, contributing as much as 57 percent of our total carbon emissions.

Global warming, caused in large part by carbon pollution, is already having a significant impact on Montana and threatens to have drastic impacts on our economy. Scientists predict that extreme weather events – like recent wildfires and intense storms – will become more frequent and severe for future generations, unless we cut the dangerous carbon pollution fueling global warming.
“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming,” said Travis Madsen, Senior Program Manager for Environment Montana. “If we want a cleaner, safer future for our kids, we can’t afford to ignore power plants’ overwhelming contribution to the problem. For Montana, tackling global warming means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants.”
The report, titled, ‘America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,’ comes as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming and protect future generations. It illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from Montana’s power sector and ranks Montana’s biggest carbon polluters.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Power plants as a whole are Montana’s single largest source of carbon pollution – responsible for 57 percent of statewide emissions, or as much pollution each year as 4.1 million cars.
  • In Montana, the top five most polluting power plants are Colstrip and J.E. Corette, operated by PPL Montana, a Pennsylvania based company; Hardin Generating Station, operated by Rocky Mountain Power; Yellowstone Energy Limited Partnership, operated by Yellowstone Energy LP; and Lewis & Clark Station, operated by Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.
  • PPL Montana’s Colstrip power plant, located east of Billings, is the 18th most carbon-polluting power plant in the nation. This plant alone produces as much carbon pollution each year as 2.8 million cars. According to PPL, the plant consumes one rail car’s worth of coal every five minutes.

“This report underscores the fact that just a handful of coal-burning plants in Montana are responsible for well over 50 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. We have cleaner, cheaper and more reliable electricity options available to us today,” said Anne Hedges, Program Director at Montana Environmental Information Center. “This shows that cleaning up just a few plants can dramatically decrease Montana’s contribution to rising temperatures, extended droughts, and expensive forest fires.”

This summer, President Obama directed the EPA to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, the largest single source of carbon pollution. In a major step, the EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants on September 20. More than 3 million Americans have already submitted public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

“The first step is to not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Hedges. “We need strong rules based on solid science to make sure that power companies never again build another polluter like the PPL Colstrip power plant that would further damage our climate with runaway carbon pollution.”

Environment Montana called on state leaders like Senator Max Baucus and Senator Jon Tester to join them in supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

“Montana can’t afford to wait to act on climate, so it’s critical that Senators Baucus and Tester support cleaning up the dirtiest power plants,” said Madsen.