Portland, Ore. – Portland General Electric Company (NYSE: POR) has joined other Pacific Northwest owners of the Colstrip Generating Station, located in Colstrip, Montana, in a federal lawsuit against Northwestern Corporation and Talen Montana, LLC. The lawsuit challenges a bill passed by the Montana Legislature and signed into law yesterday by the state’s governor to override longstanding contractual agreements among the Colstrip plant co-owners.
“We need to serve our customers’ interests in this discussion,” says Lisa Kaner, PGE vice president and general counsel. “This law interferes with provisions of private business contracts that we entered into to protect our customers and facilitate constructive decision-making among the Colstrip plant co-owners. We believe the law is unconstitutional and not appropriate.”
Montana Senate Bill 265 threatens the contractual rights of the Colstrip plant co-owners by attempting to alter the arbitration process outlined under their existing ownership and operations agreement. Both the U.S. and Montana constitutions prohibit any law that substantially impairs the obligations of existing contracts.
A companion bill also signed into law yesterday, Montana Senate Bill 266, also attempts to alter provisions of the Colstrip plant co-owners’ agreements regarding their exercise of economic decisions. PGE is reviewing that law and evaluating its potential impact. Plant co-owners Puget Sound Energy, Avista Corporation, and PacifiCorp joined PGE in the federal lawsuit filed this morning. Northwestern Corporation and Talen Montana, LLC are also co-owners.
None of the plant’s six co-owners has a majority stake in the Colstrip facility, which is at the center of a complex mix of issues and legal and regulatory requirements, including laws in Washington and Oregon that require utilities there to eliminate coal-fired power from their energy supplies used to serve retail customers.
“We have been involved with Colstrip since its inception and recognize the needs of the employees, community, and the environment,” Kaner says. “We continue to work with the co-owners to find solutions to these issues.”