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NorthWestern Energy Responds to Colstrip Owners’ Settlement of Clean Air Suit

Jul 12, 2016

Butte, Mont. – July 12, 2016 – NorthWestern Energy, one of six owners of the Colstrip Generating Station, has joined the settlement of a longstanding lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) that dismisses outright all of the claims against Colstrip Unit 4, the only Colstrip unit in which NorthWestern Energy has an ownership interest.      

The Colstrip Generating Station consists of four coal-fired generating units.  NorthWestern does not have any ownership interest in Units 1 and 2. Colstrip Units 3 and 4 are the newest of the four units, and have long been recognized as a source of responsibly produced electricity.

“Our goal was to ensure the longevity of those units because they are an important component of our diversified portfolio and retaining them is in the best interest of our customers.  As a partial owner of Unit 4 and the only owner providing regulated utility service in Montana, we refused to agree to any shutdown date for Units 3 and 4. We are satisfied that absent any significant additional government regulation, we have preserved a long-term, cost effective electricity source for our customers,” said Bob Rowe, CEO. 

The Consent Decree resolves the litigation against all four units. While the Consent Decree does have a date by which Units 1 and 2 must shut down, these units are owned by Talen Montana and Puget Sound Energy. NorthWestern Energy had no role in Talen’s and PSE’s decisions and could not affect this outcome. In contrast, there is no shut-down date for Units 3 and 4.

“Therefore, we are pleased with this outcome regarding Units 3 and 4 because all of the claims that pertain to our ownership are being dismissed and we have some certainty moving forward. Colstrip is unique because even though it’s a relatively small piece of our portfolio, we are able to rely on it to provide a large volume of stable, reliable, 24/7 energy at times when variable sources like wind are not generating,” Rowe added. “We’re primarily a hydro company and wind is our second largest source of power, so the energy from Colstrip is a necessary hedge against Montana’s unpredictable and occasionally extreme weather patterns.”

The litigation was filed in 2013.  Since then, the number of claims that the Sierra Club and MEIC advanced against Unit 4 was dramatically reduced from 39 as a result of court decisions favorable to the Colstrip owners and the Sierra Club’s and MEIC’s voluntary withdrawal of claims prior to the settlement discussions.

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About NorthWestern Energy
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 701,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at

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