Court pauses new Montana Colstrip law

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The Colstrip Power Plant, pictured on Oct. 2, 2020.

CASEY PAGE, Billings Gazette

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters has blocked Montana from overriding portions of the private contract governing Colstrip Power Plant.

In an order Wednesday, Watters paused a new Montana law empowering the state attorney general to order power plant repairs and imposing fines of $100,000 a day against noncompliant Colstrip owners. The judge said the law is likely unconstitutional, which she will rule on at a later date.

The lawsuit in which the order was filed concerns Senate Bill 265, which requires that all litigation between the power plant owners take place in district court in Rosebud County, where Colstrip resides. The power plant’s ownership agreement that’s been in effect for nearly 40 years specifies that legal matters be settled in Spokane Superior Court in Washington.

The contract also spells out how decisions about maintenance and operations are made. In empowering the Montana AG to order repairs, the state has overridden portions of the Colstrip contract.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen received maintenance policing

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