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Colstrip Listed Among “Most Dangerous” Coal Ash Sites

GRAPHIC: Colstrip has landed on the most dangerous list for coal-ash sites, according to a report released by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice. Graphic from the report.
GRAPHIC: Colstrip has landed on the most dangerous list for coal-ash sites, according to a report released by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice. Graphic from the report.
May 16, 2014

COLSTRIP, Mont. – Colstrip has landed on the most dangerous list for coal-ash sites, according to a report released by the Sierra Club and the public interest law organization Earthjustice.

The inventory uses environmental quality data, and according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Colstrip plant is surrounded by 800 acres of coal-ash waste ponds – ponds that are leaking and contain toxics such as arsenic.

Anne Hedges, deputy director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, says the problem has been out of sight, out of mind for too long.

"And when you have a very contaminated site that's away from large population centers, people don't pay attention to it until it's too late," she says.

The Colstrip plant owners paid millions of dollars to local residents for polluting groundwater in 2008, and the City of Colstrip has to pump in water from the Yellowstone River 30 miles away to ensure a safe supply.

The report calls on the state to require Colstrip to clean up the waste ponds.

PPL Corp., the company with the largest stake in the plant, has assured the public that problems will be addressed and has a bond to cover contamination costs.

Hedges says the bond is only for $7.5 million, which she says is a small fraction of what will be needed.

"If we don't get them early, then taxpayers are going to be responsible for some share of that cleanup, and that's not right,” she states. “Now is the time to get after it. We've waited long enough."

Hedges says those who live in the area also need more safeguards in place to protect them from leaking toxins.



Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT