PPL to idle Corette coal plant in 2015 in time for MATS compliance

A combination of pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations and economic factors has resulted in a decision announced Sept. 19 by PPL Montana to place the coal-fired J.E. Corette power plant in Billings, Mont., into long-term reserve status beginning in April 2015.

“Our detailed analysis has shown that to meet the emission reductions required by EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, we would need to invest $38 million in the Corette plant. We simply cannot justify that level of spending in the current wholesale power market in the Northwest,” said Pete Simonich, PPL Montana vice president and COO.

Another factor in the shutdown is that wholesale power prices have been depressed in the Northwest because of declining electricity use and a lot of new wind energy projects subsidized by federal production tax credits.

PPL Montana plans to operate the Corette plant until requirements of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) take effect in April 2015. It will then be placed in reserve status, commonly called “mothballing.” This gives PPL Montana the opportunity to resume operations at some point if conditions change.

The 154-MW power plant, which uses low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin, has 35 full-time employees. The plant began operation in 1968.

PPL Montana also operates the nearby and much larger Colstrip power plant, which is not affected by the Corette decision and is better positioned to meet MATS requirements. EPA recently issued a decision, though, in a regional haze matter for the state of Montana that will require new emissions control on two of the four Colstrip units.

PPL Montana owns more than 1,200 MW of coal-fired and hydroelectric generating capacity across Montana. PPL EnergyPlus operates a trading floor in Butte that markets and sells power for PPL Montana in wholesale and retail energy markets throughout the western U.S. PPL Montana and PPL EnergyPlus are subsidiaries of PPL Corp. (NYSE: PPL).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.