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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hearing set on Avista’s 20-year electric plan; Montana coal-fired plant part of proposal

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 6, 2017

Avista has a 15 percent ownership in Units 3 and 4 at the Colstrip Steam Electric Station in Colstrip, Montana. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Avista has a 15 percent ownership in Units 3 and 4 at the Colstrip Steam Electric Station in Colstrip, Montana. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokesman-Review

Avista’s partial ownership in a coal-fired electric plant in Eastern Montana is likely to draw testimony at a Wednesday hearing in Spokane Valley.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission will hold a public hearing on Avista’s proposed 20-year electric plan from 1-3 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 10210 E. Sprague Ave. The hearing gives Avista customers the chance to weigh in on the utility’s plans for meeting future energy needs.

The utility gets about 9 percent of its electricity from the Colstrip plant in Montana. The rest of Avista’s electricity comes from hydropower, natural gas-fired turbines, a biomass plant and wind power.

Colstrip is among the largest coal-burning plants west of the Mississippi River, producing about 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other climate-warming gases each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Avista is one of six owners in Colstrip. The utility expects Colstrip to be a viable part of its energy mix through at least 2037, Jason Thackston, Avista’s senior vice president for energy resources, said in a July interview. However, Avista could reduce the amount of electricity it gets from Colstrip and buy more energy on the wholesale market, the utility’s draft plan said.

The Sierra Club would like to see Colstrip shut down earlier, said Caleb Heeringa, a spokesman for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

Puget Sound Energy also is a part-owner in Colstrip. The Bellevue-based utility recently filed a settlement with Washington regulators that lists 2027 as its best estimate of the end of the plant’s useful life, Heeringa said. However, Puget Sound Energy officials have said the plant could operate beyond that point, depending on market conditions.

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