PPL Agrees to Install Continuous Monitors for Soot at Its Coal Plants in Montana

Agreement with conservation groups gives communities better pollution data


Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699


Anne Hedges, Montana Environmental Information Center, (406) 443-2520


Bob Clark, Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club, (406) 529-6706

In a settlement with conservationists on Wednesday, PPL agreed to install pollution monitors to assure that the Colstrip and Corette coal-fired power plants are continuously complying with the law for particulate pollution. Earthjustice represented the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Sierra Club in the administrative appeal and settlement of the air permits for both coal plants.

“The operation of continuous particulate matter monitors on Colstrip and Corette enables the plant’s neighbors to know every day of the year whether they are being forced to breathe levels of soot that could be harmful to their health,” said Jenny Harbine, attorney with Earthjustice. “Even short-term exposure to particulate matter pollution can cause or contribute to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”

“Industry has resisted the adoption of continuous particulate matter monitoring technology, preferring periodic tests that provide only a limited snapshot of their emissions,” said Anne Hedges with MEIC. “Colstrip currently provides such a snapshot for only three to six hours, one day each year even though they are required to comply with pollution limits on a continuous basis.”

“This settlement adds Colstrip to a growing number of large coal plants that are being required to use modern technology to monitor their particulate emissions on an ongoing basis. This is a victory for Montanans and a victory for all those who believe that coal plants should have to comply with health-based limits for air pollution,” said Bob Clark with the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club.

MEIC and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, appealed air pollution permits that were issued by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in December 2012. The groups argued that the law requires these dirty coal plants to comply with particulate pollution limits on a constant basis but DEQ only required annual and semi-annual tests to guarantee they were doing so. Continuous emissions monitors are currently being used across the country to assure these types of high polluting industrial facilities are complying with pollution limits. No facilities in Montana are currently using this technology.

This settlement agreement resolves the appeals and requires that within a year Colstrip will install these continuous particulate pollution monitors on all four stacks, and if the Corette plant in Billings continues to operate past April 2015, when PPL says it will mothball the plant, continuous monitors must be installed at that facility as well.

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.