Groups sue government over permit for power plant

October 30. 2003

Associated Press Writer
The Missoulian

WASHINGTON (AP) - Conservation groups are suing the federal government over a decision that allowed plans for a proposed central Montana power plant to go forward.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, the groups claim Interior Department officials had first determined emissions from the coal-fired power plant planned by Roundup Power Co. would have "significant impacts on visibility" at Yellowstone National Park and the UL Bend Wilderness Area _ only to improperly withdraw that ruling later.

A finding of adverse impact such as that would prevent the state from issuing a permit without the plant's emissions being cut, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Wilderness Society, the groups suing the Interior Department.

The power plant site is 112 miles northeast of Yellowstone, which sits in the far northwest corner of Wyoming and includes parts of Idaho and Montana, and 76 miles south of the wilderness area, which is in the Upper Missouri River Breaks region of central Montana.

The park and wilderness area are among a class of areas that are entitled to the highest level of protection from pollution, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.

The groups are asking a federal judge to declare the department violated the Clean Air Act when it withdrew the adverse finding. The groups also want that ruling reinstated.

Interior Department spokesman Hugh Vickery said he could not comment on the legal claims.

But Vickery said the department's letter finding an adverse impact prompted Roundup Power to provide more information to the department. "We put the letter out, they gave us more information, and as a result of that information, we withdrew the letter," he said.

The conservationists contend the new information was insufficient to reverse the decision. The withdrawal allowed the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to approve a permit for the plant.

The developer, Bull Mountain Development Co. of New York City, plans to build twin 390-megawatt units in the Bull Mountains about 12 miles south of Roundup. The plant would burn low-sulfur coal from the nearby underground Bull Mountain mine, which is reopening in a related project.


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