- Associated Press - Saturday, February 17, 2018

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - NorthWestern Energy won’t buy a distressed power plant in southeastern Montana that could be forced to shut down if a buyer isn’t found by the end of March.

The HardinGenerating Facility in Big Horn County has been operating in the red since 2014, the Billings Gazette reported .

State public service commissioners had urged NorthWestern to consider using the 116-megawatt plant to meet future power demand. But utility spokesman Butch Larcombe says Northwestern isn’t pursuing a purchase.

Payments on $12 million in bonds issued by Hardin to fund the plants construction have gone into default because it isn’t paying its taxes.

The owners of the plant last fall announced the potential for its closure this year unless a buyer stepped in to keep things running.

The plant is run by Rocky Mountain Energy. It was built in 2006 and gets its coal from the Absaloka mine on the Crow Indian Reservation.

Pam Bucy, an attorney representing the plant, said it would have been “a good fit” for the plant to be added to NorthWestern’s portfolio of energy sources.

“We’re pretty disappointed about this,” Bucy said.

In rejecting a purchase, NorthWestern cited comments from the Public Service Commission released in December 2017, which emerged while the owners of the Hardin plant were courting the utility.

The PSC criticized NorthWestern’s energy procurement plan, saying that the utility didn’t take into account available resources already in the state.

Chris Puyear, a spokesman for the PSC, said it was “patently ridiculous” that the commission hampered NorthWestern’s ability to consider the power plant. He said that the utility ignored the suggestions released by the PSC.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com


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