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NorthWestern Energy challenging federal short-sighted rules to keep energy service reliable for our Montana customers

Date: May 3, 2024

TYPE: News

NorthWestern Energy President & CEO Brian Bird

When a switch is flipped, the power comes on.

Power bills are reasonable.

Power generation is as clean as possible.

That’s what NorthWestern Energy’s Montana customers tell us they want.

We listen.

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t. 

The EPA’s new rules for the power industry threaten this nation’s energy security. One rule specifically targets the Colstrip Plant that Montanans depend on for reliable energy service.

NorthWestern Energy will join others in the industry to challenge the EPA’s short-sighted rules. We’ll fight the EPA’s attack on the Colstrip Plant that provides our Montana customers power in all weather conditions.

Limiting climate change is a shared goal. The energy industry and NorthWestern Energy are taking actions to transition to an even cleaner energy future. The transition must and does include achievable timelines, utilize proven, cost effective technology and maintain reliable, affordable energy service.

The EPA’s new rules for the power industry threaten a reality-based transition.   

The EPA is directing the energy industry to spend billions of dollars to employ carbon capture technology – still in development, unavailable and nowhere close to being cost effective – or shutdown on-demand coal and natural gas plants that keep the power in this country on in all weather conditions. The EPA has no plan to make sure reasonable replacements are available if plants are forced to close.

The EPA is moving one rule just barely out-of-reach for only the Colstrip Plant. This will force it to either add hundreds of millions of dollars of new equipment or shutdown. The Colstrip Plant kept power on for Montanans when it was 45 degrees below for days in a row in January.

What could be achieved? The Colstrip Plant’s 99.6% emissions efficiency for air toxins would improve 0.2%. Montanans’ power rates would increase. Not a dime of that cost would be invested on additional on-demand generation, which is exactly what Montana needs.


NorthWestern Energy and our peers offered the EPA input about the reality of what it takes to provide this country with reliable energy service. Energy industry personnel – experts experienced in meeting the obligation to provide reliable, safe energy service to customers – provided data about achievable timelines and the limitations of emerging technology.

The EPA didn’t listen.

EPA Administrator Regan should understand that delivering Montanans energy in a spectacular part of the country has unique challenges – a service territory with more power poles than customers that experiences extreme winter conditions and is served by a constrained transmission system with limited capabilities at times to import out-of-state power.

But EPA Administrator Regan, who apparently has not been to Montana, falsely told a Congressional committee that the Colstrip Plant is “cheating the system” and expressed concerns about the plant’s mercury emissions.

The Colstrip Plant meets state and federal mercury emissions rules.

Montana’s mercury emissions rules are more stringent than and were in place before the federal EPA’s mercury emissions standards. The Colstrip Plant will meet the EPA’s new mercury emissions rules as equipped now.


Tearing down a critical bridge before the replacement is built would halt traffic. Shuttering on-demand power generation before reasonable replacements are available will harm our economy and put reliable energy service in real jeopardy.

The EPA’s rules will force resources that could be invested to support the development of clean energy generation and storage technology to be spent instead on unproven carbon capture technology.

The EPA’s rules will force resources to be spent at the Colstrip Plant for an incremental change in air toxin emission efficiency that would provide little or no improvement to air quality for Montanans, but will raise their power bills.

NorthWestern Energy delivers reliable, safe energy service at the most affordable rates possible. The resources serving our Montana customers are 58% carbon free, better than the national industry average of 41%.

Our employees work around the clock, every day in all weather conditions to deliver power to the communities where they live and raise their families.

We cannot let short-sighted federal rules derail a realistic, reasonable transition to an even cleaner energy future.