Troubled Montana Coal Plant Proposal Faces Fresh Challenge

Global warming pollution not addressed in air permit


Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit on June 30th to compel the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a proposed new coal-fire power plant. The lawsuit was filed in Montana state court by Earthjustice on behalf of the Montana Environmental Information Center and Citizens for Clean Energy. The suit challenges the air quality permit for the proposed Highwood Generating Station because the plant failed to identify control technologies to reduce emissions of CO2. The 250-megawatt coal-fired power plant would be located near Great Falls, Montana.

The Highwood Generating Station, if built, would emit approximately 2.1-million tons of CO2 each year. While the Montana DEQ acknowledged that these emissions will contribute to global warming, the agency declined to require the plant developers to employ any pollution controls for CO2.

The suit comes as the federal Environmental Protection Agency delays compliance with a 2007 Supreme Court order telling it to decide whether and how to regulate CO2 emissions from stationary sources. Meanwhile, states are stepping into the regulatory void. On the same day the lawsuit was filed, a state court in Georgia became the first in the nation to require CO2 emissions limits in air quality permits. The case, which challenged the permit for a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Early County, Georgia, set an important precedent for coal plant challenges around the country.

The Montana lawsuit is the latest of a long list of troubles for the proposed Highwood plant, which has already been denied federal loan funding from the federal Rural Utilities Service.

Additionally, in May, 2008, the Montana Board of Environmental Review determined that the Clean Air Act requires DEQ to establish limits on Highwood’s fine particulate matter emissions, sending the air quality permit back to the drawing board. In addition, the plant’s proponents are facing a legal challenge to the rezoning of the proposed project site.

Read the petition  (PDF)

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