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Little used Montana natural gas plant being dismantled

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Workers have begun dismantling a little used natural gas-fired power plant that was at least partially to blame for the bankruptcy of the rural electric cooperative that built it.

ProEnergy Solutions of Sedalia, Missouri, began the work last month.

Bankruptcy trustee Dean Swick tells the Great Falls Tribune they expect the work to be completed by November, weather permitting.

Over the past week, workers have been taking down electrical lines and poles. The most valuable piece of the plant is the turbine that powered the facility.

ProEnergy Solutions, which provides services and equipment for the power-generation and oil and gas industries, will sell the buildings, equipment, poles and wire.

Southern Montana Electricity Generation and Transmission, which included the city of Great Falls, borrowed $85 million to build the 46-megawatt plant to provide power to its members.

SME had initially proposed building a coal-fired plant in 2004, but after lawsuits by area landowners and environmental groups, the co-op decided to build a smaller, natural gas-fired plant. Crews broke ground in October 2010.

SME general manager Tim Gregori had wanted to borrow up to another $300 million to expand the plant, but the co-op filed for bankruptcy protection soon after the plant was completed in 2011, in part because it was buying more power than its members needed and had to sell it at a loss on the open market. Gregori soon retired.

The city of Great Falls paid a $3.25 million settlement to leave the cooperative while Yellowstone Valley Electric paid a $2.5 million. That left Beartooth Electric of Red Lodge, Fergus Electric of Lewistown, Mid-Yellowstone Electric of Hysham and Tongue River Electric of Ashland as members of the co-op. Those co-ops agreed to pay $21 million to secured creditors over four years, starting in 2014. The co-op will disband in 2018.

Area landowner Bob Lassila opposed the plant but said seeing it dismantled didn’t bring him any “sigh of relief.”

“It’s just a disappointment at the losses that different parties have experienced,” he said.

In related news, North Dakota to sue over new power plant CO2 standards.

Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.