Print this article
JANUARY 12, 2011
Contact: David Hoffman, 406-431-6783
Colstrip economic impact study details positive effects of the power plant on Montana’s economy, families

The Colstrip power plant has far-reaching, positive effects on the economy, jobs and the quality of life in Montana, according to the results of a study released this week by economists at the University of Montana.

The study, commissioned by the owners of the Colstrip power plant — PPL Montana, Puget Sound Energy Inc., Portland General Electric Company, Avista Corporation, PacifiCorp and NorthWestern Energy — shows that Montana has a stronger and more prosperous economy because of the Colstrip power plant.

Specifically, the report finds that because of the Colstrip power plant, Montana has:

  • 3,740 more jobs, including 2,688 private sector jobs.
  • $360 million more in personal income.
  • $638 million more net output produced.
  • 7,700 more residents, based on the jobs attributable to the plant.

“The report confirms that responsible operations of the Colstrip power plant by its owners have benefited the community and the state far beyond the electricity we generate,” said Pete Simonich, vice president and chief operating officer of PPL Montana, the company that operates the power plant. “The plant provides good-paying, family-sustaining jobs for hundreds of people, many of whom make their home and raise their families in Colstrip, and creates a large economic ‘ripple effect’ that reaches across the state from the business activity and tax revenue the plant generates.”

The four-unit Colstrip power plant in Rosebud County is the second largest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi River, capable of generating 2,094 megawatts of electricity. The plant employs about 360 people and uses locally mined, low-sulfur Montana coal.

Patrick Barkey, director of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and co-author of the report, said that without the Colstrip plant the economy of eastern Montana would be profoundly different.   

“The fundamental conclusion of this study is that the contribution that has been made, and continues to be made, by the generating facility in Colstrip is larger than many Montanans may realize,” Barkey said. “When you look statewide, the impact is significant. Colstrip directly and indirectly accounts for nearly $104 million in taxes paid to state and local governments in Montana, with roughly two-thirds of this total paid to the state and benefiting all Montanans.”

Jim Atchison, executive director of the Southeastern Montana Development Corp., appreciates the Colstrip plant owners for commissioning the economic impact study.

“The economic benefits of these jobs and taxes are tremendous, to the city of Colstrip, Rosebud County, southeastern Montana and the entire state,” Atchison said. “Without a doubt this analysis should show the rest of our state that responsible energy development can have far-reaching positive economic impacts. Every corner of Montana has benefited from the coal mining and power generation operations at Colstrip.”

He pointed to the contributions of the Colstrip power plant to the successful Colstrip Public School system and the services provided by the city of Colstrip, including its award-winning parks and recreation district.

“The plant supports outstanding quality of life benefits that are available in Colstrip and are the envy of the state,” Atchison said.

To read the complete report, visit

PPL has 500 employees in Montana who generate and sell electricity. PPL Montana operates coal-fired power plants at Colstrip and Billings, as well as 11 hydroelectric power plants along Rosebud Creek and the Missouri, Madison, Clark Fork and Flathead rivers. It has a combined generating capacity of about 1,200 megawatts and has offices in Billings, Butte and Helena. PPL EnergyPlus operates a trading floor in Butte that markets and sells power in the wholesale and retail energy market. PPL Montana and PPL EnergyPlus are subsidiaries of PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL).