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WA Utility Commits to Stepping Away from Coal

Avista is one of six owners in the Montana-based Colstrip power plant, the largest greenhouse-gas emitter west of the Mississippi River. (Rachel Cernansky/Flickr)
Avista is one of six owners in the Montana-based Colstrip power plant, the largest greenhouse-gas emitter west of the Mississippi River. (Rachel Cernansky/Flickr)
December 13, 2019

SPOKANE, Wash. – An eastern Washington utility is cutting its reliance on coal in exchange for more renewable energy sources.

Avista has decided not to support any investments that extend Montana's Colstrip power plant past 2025. Colstrip is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases west of the Mississippi River.

The commitment comes in a rate case settlement, in which Avista also asks to raise rates by more than six percent. Washington utilities are under pressure from a new state law requiring them to end their reliance on coal by 2025.

Jason Thackston, senior vice president of energy resources with Avista, says the company is focused on reducing its carbon footprint in cost-efficient ways.

"Any decisions that we can make or actions we can take that reduce carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions in a way that preserves the affordability of the service for our customers is the right thing to do," says Thackston.

The state still is considering Avista's rate case settlement. The Spokane-based utility serves about 350,000 customers in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

Avista has bigger climate goals as well. Earlier this year, it announced goals to be carbon neutral by 2027 and to get 100% of its electricity from clean energy by 2045.

But Thackston says the company doesn't intend to leave Colstrip behind, and has proposed $3 million for the Colstrip community in its rate case settlement.

"If we have an opportunity to help the community that's been partnering with us for over 30 years to diversify the economy of the community," says Thackston, “to help employees who might be affected by changes at Colstrip generation, to transition them to new jobs or new economies – then we want to be part of that."

Avista is one of six owners of the Colstrip power plant, including two other Washington state utilities, Puget Sound Energy and Pacific Power.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA