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Montana coal-fired power plant to close

World Coal,

The J.E. Corette coal-fired power plant in Billings, Montana, US, will shut down in August, its owner has confirmed. The plant is the latest casualty in a wave of closures across the country that have left the coal industry reeling.

The 153 MW plant, owned by PPL Montana, has operated since 1968 along the Yellowstone River. It burns coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (PRB).

PPL had announced plans in 2012 to mothball the 30-worker plant this spring and restart it if market conditions improved.

But PPL spokesman, David Hoffman, said a recent re-analysis showed a temporary shutdown no longer made economic sense.

The projected cost to resume power generation at Corette had increased to more than US$40 million, he said, as weak electricity markets in the Pacific Northwest were keeping down profits.

The cost of a re-start stemmed primarily from the expense of new pollution controls needed to meet federal restrictions on emissions of mercury and other toxins produced by burning coal.

By the end of decade, the mercury restrictions and competition from cheap natural gas are expected to bring the retirement of coal plants across the country that generate more than 60 000 MW of power, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

A single megawatt provides power for roughly 600 to 1000 houses, depending on how much electricity the dwellings use.

The plant closures are further dampening demand for coal from US mines. About 966 million t of coal will be mined in the US this year, the lowest volume since 1993, according to projections and historical records.

Hoffman declined to reveal what mine serves Corette, saying it was proprietary information.

According to Canadian Business, it remains uncertain how many of Corette’s workers will be out of a job. Some have already been transferred to new positions within the company, Hoffman said. Others could retire early.

The pollution restrictions cited by PPL, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, have been in the works since 1994, when the EPA first agreed to consider new restrictions on certain pollutants from power plants.

After Corette closes, it will be demolished and its grounds remediated over the next two years, Hoffman said. No toxic coal ash was stored on the site, which will make any cleanup easier, he said.

It is uncertain what will happen to the ownership of the site.

PPL’s parent corporation in Pennsylvania last year announced plans to spin off assets, including its Montana power plants, to focus on other markets. The closure of Corette does not alter the spinoff, a deal expected to close after March.

As part of that deal, a new corporation, Talen Energy Corp., will assume ownership of the 2100 MW Colstrip plant, jointly owned by PPL and several other utilities. The southeast Montana plant is one of the largest power generators west of the Mississippi River.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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