Coal Plant: Now What?

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Caught a few minutes of the City Commission meeting on channel 7, and was relieved (and somewhat surprised) to see Mr Hubbard speak so concisely. Of course the main topic of debate was the proposed coal plant, and it sure has some folks fired up (pun intended). Here’s my stance: based on my limited knowledge of the issues involved, I tentatively support the plant. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have concerns – not environmental or health, but financial and ownership (see GeeGuy for more on that). There doesn’t seem to be any single place for anyone to get “read up” on the overall subject, so if anyone wants to express their opinion on the issue – facts, debate, rhetoric – I’ve set up a PRO Forum and CON Forum over in the Forums section. All you’ve got to do is register (painless and fast) and you can let the entire community know how you feel. Any trouble registering, just let me know (david AT



  1. David,
    The Tribune plans to do a series on the Highwood Generating Station. They have been given access to all the public documents, and will also listen to those who oppose the plant. The Citizens for Clean Energy do NOT have all the facts and prefer not to listen to answers that do not support their agenda.
    Construction alone on HGS will bring $100 million to Great Falls – so when someone says “coal” is a four letter word, I say “jobs” is a four letter word, too. Those construction jobs (650 of them) will feed a lot of families.
    The final Environmental Impact Statement should be complete and published by the end of January, and that should go a long way toward allaying any fears in the community. There are perhaps 1,000 people who oppose the plant, out of 80,000 residents of the county.
    The time limit did work tonight – people were much more civil and thought carefully about what they were saying.
    I had reservations about implementing a limit, but “free speech” is not a license to slander or attack people on a personal level.

    Keep watching:)

  2. Jobs for Whom? If you knew anything about heavy industrial construction you would know that a majority of these 400-500 trade jobs will be filled by travelers.

    I expect 1,000 out of 80,000 in opposition is also blind exaggeration. We are forced to risk and suffer the ill health effects but have no say. A simple up/down vote will settle this debate. Better yet offer a choice of IGCC or nuclear.

    It\’s about money – just not local.

  3. Funny, when you look at the mortality rates for the different states ( ) it’s hard to find any correlation with coal plant concentration (East Coast) and life expectancy. Despite the “ill health effects” of coal plants Montana is below many states, in longevity, which have several coal plants. My point isn’t that breathing flue gas is good for you but that the additional money spent on other costlier technologies could be better used elsewhere to improve our health, via the concept of diminishing returns. A teenager is more likely to be murdered ( ) than die of cancer so where is our money best spent? Nobody is for pollution but we would be far worse off living in the Stone Age when there was none.

  4. Wolfpack, that is exactly why I am not focusing on the whole pollution issue; I just don’t know enough about it.

    I am far more worried about the financial issues.

    And Mayor, while I am glad that the Tribune has “been given access to all public documents,” I am curious why the rest of us are having such a hard time getting our hands on them.

  5. Lance, if the question is, “Should we allow a coal plant here?” there is no provision in state law to allow such a vote. Land use questions are handled by city and county commissions and never up to the voters.
    Wolfpack, Yellowstone Park emits 400 pounds of naturally occuring mercury per year. CCE should move forward and close that park – look downwind at all the thriving communities that have suffered harm from the Park. (A little sarcasm, sorry;)
    The bottom line is that we have an opportunity here, including many jobs and increased economic vitality. Over 50% of the nation’s electricity is coal-powered, and Highwood Generating Station will use the best available control technology with Circulating Fluidized Bed technology.
    This will prevent us from having to buy power from plants that cause far more pollution than HGS.
    Those who are touting IGCC as preferable refuse to recognize that it is immature and unreliable technology, not to mention unfinanceable.
    I know this post will change no one’s mind, but I hope that those with open minds will will read it and do their own homework, instead of swallowing what they have been spoon fed.

  6. GeeGuy, I agree the financials and partnership agreements should be more transparent. This wouldn’t be as big an issue if it weren’t for Lawton’s legendary creative accounting and subdiffusion. I would be more at ease if this project was just handed over to a consultant with a good reputation for these kinds of endeavors. This consultant should report directly to the commissioners not the city manager. How is it that our city government can take on managing a project like this without hiring one or more people of talent to work it full time? We are using existing staff who have no expertise in this field. Even if the city staff has by now figured out what they are doing it must be taking up a great deal of their time. What city functions are not being attended to while our top dogs are working the coal plant issue? If everything is being attended to properly then we had to many management employees to start with, which again makes me question current management.

  7. To me the pollution problem is the smaller issue we face right now, I’m concerned about the money the city is wanting to commit. Much like they put the pool bonds to vote we need to vote on the Highwood plant. The bi-centennial got Mayor Grey defeated not Mayor Stebbins and the Highwood plant will probably get her defeated.

  8. Are you backers still going to push dirty old coal? Gov. Schweitzer says “We are not going to extend tax incentives to Highwood” People are not going to let this stinking heap move forward. What about the wasted tax money spent chasing this foul air spewing monster? We want some accountability. This policy position did not come about overnight.

    Time for a special investigator.

  9. Lance, if the question is, “Should we allow a coal plant here?” there is no provision in state law to allow such a vote. This was the mayor’s response. WRONG The law calls for a vote by the people before the city spends money on a municipal utility. The Attorney General’s Opinion supporting this can be found on city web site. It was used to create Electric City Power in Oct. of 2003. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for me, it can not be a valid excuse for elected officials, city managers or fiscal services directors.

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