PPL Montana plans to mothball its 154-MW coal-fired J.E. Corette power plant in Billings, Mont., starting in April 2015. The company cited "effects of pending Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] regulations combined with economic factors," as reasons for its decision.

The 1968-built plant has 35 employees and uses low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin, but it represents just a fraction of the 1,200-MW of coal and hydro generation operated by PPL Montana across the state. To meet emissions reductions required by the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will take effect in April 2015, the company would need to invest about $38 million in the Corette plant, it said.  "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 chief operating officer, in a statement on Sept. 19.

The Northwest has seen weeks of depressed power prices for most of this year caused in part by abundant hydro production. Peak hydro generation in the region was nearly 9,600 MW last week. But Bonneville Power Administration spokesman Michael Milstein told Energy Newsdata on Sept. 13 that runoff has ended. "We’re now in that period where what’s in the water are baseline inputs—glacial melt, spring water."

According to PPL Montana, regional wholesale power prices have also been depressed because of "declining electricity use and an abundance of new wind energy projects subsidized by federal production tax credits."

Sources: POWERnews, PPL Montana, Energy Newsdata

–Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)