June 22, 2022 | View PDF
With my re-election as Public Service Commissioner representing eastern Montana, I deeply appreciate the confidence placed in me by my constituents (67% vote; thank you!) and want to dedicate my election to a great grassroots supporter: Lonny Bergstrom, Lewistown, who recently passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.
As a Commissioner, I am deeply concerned about the electric power shortages (brownouts & blackouts) that Montana is possibly facing this summer. For decades, Montana has enjoyed reliable, affordable electric power from hydro, natural gas, and especially coal, given its role as the state’s foremost provider, not only of “baseload” power — the delivery of on-demand 24/7 electricity — but of the most secure form of baseload power: the “mine-mouth” coal plant located in the town of Colstrip in southeastern Montana, at the “mouth” of the Rosebud Mine:
Unfortunately, the longstanding Obama-Biden war on coal now threatens to shut down the Colstrip plant as early as 2025, in which case virtually all of the state’s remaining baseload power would be lost (two of Colstrip’s four generators having been needlessly shut down two years ago).
Add to that the present drought that is resulting in reduced river flows in the northwest and therefore negatively impacting hydroelectric power generation, and it’s clear that the last thing the PSC wants is even more threats to the state’s electric power generation, not just in the summer but in the winter as well. And that means that Colstrip must remain operational for the foreseeable future, if not for decades more.
Like any other coal plant, however, Colstrip generates waste ash, tens of millions of tons of which have piled up on the plant site, only to pollute the groundwater and threaten the townspeople accordingly. But by truly “greenifying” Colstrip, that stands to change, and dramatically so.
By supporting US-based RamRock Building Systems in its plan to import the highly advanced technologies that its South African business partner has developed for the remediation and commercialization (beneficial use) of coal ash. For by turning Colstrip’s ash into products like hybrid concrete and the high-grade cement additive that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has already granted regulatory approval for, RamRock could not only “greenify” coal; by also beneficially using the plant’s CO2 emissions — to literally feed a massive, onsite, indoor farming complex, for example — RamRock could effectively turn this single-purpose coal plant into a multipurpose, state-of-the-art, eco-industrial park.
To quote RamRock CEO David White in the Yellowstone County News awhile back: “We have the technology. And repurposing the money that will otherwise be spent to cover up Colstrip’s waste problem is all that stands between embracing the future and turning our back on it.” And because I will be joining David as often as I can, as he tours the state to meet with civic, legislative, and other groups, speaking as well with the news media, be assured that we look forward to meeting as many of you as we possibly can.
That goes for those of you who fear “Climate Change,” by the way, as the beneficial use of CO2 speaks directly to the other side of the controversy: “the social benefit of carbon.”
Randy Pinocci, PSC Commissioner, District 1, is a former Great Falls Legislator who served on the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee and has been re-elected to his 2nd term on the Public Service Commission.