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Roundup Coal-Fired Power Plant
And Coal-Fired Power Plants In Montana
Also see: Coal To Liquid Synfuels & Musselshell -- An Endangered River

Musselshell River
Musselshell River

The town of Roundup is situated on the banks of the Musselshell River. Its future 780 megawatt coal fired power plant would be the largest in Montana. Montana issued a Clean Air Act permit in January 2003 for this big new plant. The Roundup plant will be a “merchant plant,” exempt from regulation by Montana Public Service Commission. Power will be sold to the highest bidder, wherever that bidder may be, at whatever price the market will bear and Montana will be left with the impacts of mining and generation of electricity. Montana now produces 3,200 megawatts, but consumes only 1,700. With a 1,500 megawatt surplus, Montana will become the boiler room of the West. Federal scientists say the plant's sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions could create a haze because tiny particles in those gases absorb or scatter light. Federal scientists recommended the plant install a wet scrubber to reduce this pollution, which plant owners dismissed as too costly or impractical. Plant managers took their case to the Department of Interior in Washington with the same result, but two political appointees in DC approved the project anyway.

The projected pollution per year from Roundup power plant is:

  • Carbon dioxide 8,199,803 tons
    (a 27% increase of Montana's total CO2)
  • Sulfur oxides 3,939 tons
  • Carbon monoxide 4,917 tons
  • Nitrogen oxides 2,329 tons
  • Volatile organic compounds 99 tons
  • Hazardous air pollutants 90 tons

Coal-Fired Power Plants In Montana

Seven new coal-fired power plants and/or expansion of existing plants are proposed for Montana. If constructed, they would more than double the state's coal-fired generating capacity. Once constructed, they will emit greenhouse gases and pollute the skies for 50 years or more. Coal-fired plants are the largest source of mercury pollution. Montana has health advisories due to mercury contamination in 70% of its surface waters. In days of heightened concern over mercury pollution, one would think coal-fired power plants would be the last option for energy production. Under the law mercury emissions are not regulated. State of the art mercury controls must be installed on all coal burning plants. MRA thinks these coal plant expansions are a bad idea because they are expensive to build and once built and on line, they will stifle the market for clean energy investments.

Rising natural gas prices have breathed new life into coal as a more stable fuel source. While the federal government and coal industry have touted the benefits of clean coal, not one is slated to use advanced coal gasification technologies capable of controlling carbon dioxide emissions, the primary greenhouse gas. Montana's power plants are ranked eleventh in the nation for dioxin pollution formed from the burning of coal. Pennsylvania Power & Light Co., which owns coal burning plants in Montana, ranked 3rd in the nation for dioxin pollution. Dioxin is so toxic that you need only minuscule amounts to trigger cancer effects. Dioxin bio-accumulates in the human body through animal fats, meats and milk. The Bush Administration recently squashed plants to establish a limit on dioxin emissions. The technology to reduce dioxin and other pollutants in power plant emissions has existed for 35 years. The new federal regulations recently adopted would allow older power plants and factories to modernize without having to install pollution controls, potentially resulting in more pollution.

Great Falls was chosen for a 250 megawatt coal burning power plant to be built by 2008 by the Southern Montana Generation and Transmission Coop, which has purchased a site 8 miles east of Great Falls on the south-side of the Missouri River. Great Falls will finance 17% of the $470 million plant by issuing revenue bonds. The plant will burn 1,100,000 tons of coal yearly. ~

Also: Coal To Liquid Synfuels & Musselshell -- An Endangered River

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