Avista needs to hear from you!

The emissions from burning coal for heat and energy fuel global warming, making coal one of the greatest threats to our climate.  Mining and burning coal release harmful pollutants into the air, like mercury and chemicals.  Pollution from burning coal also produces acid rain, which kill fish and plants.  Burning coal is the biggest single source of carbon dioxide emissions from human activity, and mining it releases the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Avista currently has two separate issues regarding their use of coal power from the Colstrip plant located in Montana.  Both of which, we need your support in helping Avista and the Idaho Public Utilities Commission know we do not support utilizing one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the country for another 20 years.

Avista is requesting a rate increase of 13.9 million over the next two years for capital improvements to Colstrip.  Ratepayer money should not be spent propping up a dying industry. The single most important way to mitigate climate change is to stop burning coal.

On Thursday Nov. 30th at 6pm the Idaho PUC will be hosting a public hearing in Coeur d’Alene at the Midtown Center Meeting Room on Avista’s rate increase request.  Customers’ hearing testimony will be put into the case record during that meeting, so please be sure to attend!

Additionally, Avista recently drafted its integrated resource plan, which outlines how it will supply energy to its customers for the next 20 years.  In their plan, Avista intends to use coal from Colstrip for the next 20 years. Colstrip only makes up about 10% of the energy mix that Avista provides to its electric customers.  Do we want Avista to continue to release millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for the next 20 years?   Send your comments to Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

The comment deadline is Dec. 15th. 

File a comment electronically at:


Or mail a hard copy to:

Idaho Public Utilities Commission
P O Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0074
FAX: (208) 334-3762

 Make sure that when submitting a comment to include the case number for the IRP, which is: AVU-E-17-08


Below are some talking points for your comments:

Climate Change

  • Coal is the dirtiest form of fossil fuel energy and the single largest contributor to
  • global climate change.
  • Colstrip is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases in the United States.
  • Avista is one of six owners of the Colstrip coal plant in Eastern Montana.



  • Coal is rapidly becoming more expensive than alternative energy sources as the cost of wind, solar and energy efficiency continue to drop. Most of Colstrip’s owners recognize this and are looking for exit strategies from the aging plant.
  • As indicated by Avista’s previous requests to increase rates, millions of dollars in
  • Infrastructure improvements could be necessary to keep the plant running safely and in compliance with public health and environmental standards for the next 20 years.
  • Portland General Electric is required to be out of Colstrip by 2030 under Oregon state law.
  • Talen Energy, the plant’s operator, recently told the Montana State Legislature that they are losing “tens of millions of dollars a year” operating the plant and that they “cannot and will not” continue to do that.
  • Puget Sound Energy (PSE) recently consolidated their debt payment schedule on the plant to 2027, which they consider the “end of useful life” of the plant.
  • Avista’s IRP calls for the plant to run past 2037, more than 10 years longer than PSE.
  • As other owners pull out of Colstrip early, Avista ratepayers will be on the hook for a larger share of the costs.
  • A fiscally responsible utility would start planning for these looming costs now, rather than putting it off until later.

Community Transition in Colstrip

  • The owners of Colstrip have benefited from Colstrip without having to bear any of the public health consequences. Avista has a moral obligation to help provide an economic path forward as communities in Eastern Montana transition away from coal power.
  • PSE earmarked $10 million, including $5 million from shareholder profit, for economic transition for the community of Colstrip. Avista’s share would be ~$6 million. Avista’s shareholders should should similarly be responsible for half of the transition funds.
  • Avista’s IRP does not take into account any money for community transition over the next 20 years.


Environmental Cleanup in Colstrip

  • The coal seam in Colstrip is the natural aquifer, and has been extracted from the mines, disrupting the groundwater system. The town of Colstrip currently imports all of its drinking water from the Yellowstone River.
  • Colstrip plant has 800 acres of leaking coal ash ponds that have contaminated ground and surface waters for decades. Where the aquifer remains it is contaminated with lead, boron and other toxins.
  • PSE agreed to begin setting aside money for cleanup of the plant, which they estimate will cost them $350 million at the least. Avista’s share will be at least ~$100 million.
  • Avista’s IRP does not take into account any money for cleanup over the next 20 years


Bottom Line

  • The IRP does not consider these costs and risks in the Colstrip analysis. Without these factors taken into consideration, Avista’s least cost assessment for Colstrip is not valid.
  • Avista has a financial and environmental obligation to its customers to accelerate the Colstrip “end of useful life” to 2027.