UTC staff recommend denying PSE’s request to sell Colstrip Unit 4 interests

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- Oct. 5, 2020 -

Media Contact: (360) 664-1116 or media@utc.wa.gov
Docket Number: UE-200115

Editor’s note: This news release reflects the position of energy staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses staff testimony that the commissioners have not yet reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by the commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC. 

UTC staff recommend denying PSE's request to sell Colstrip Unit 4 interests

Public invited to comment during virtual hearing on Oct. 8

Olympia, Wash. - Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission staff filed testimony on Friday recommending that state regulators deny Puget Sound Energy’s request to sell a portion of its Colstrip holdings, finding that the company has not demonstrated that the sales are in the best interest of the public.

UTC staff recommended that the three-member commission deny three separate transfer of property requests submitted by PSE for the company’s 25% ownership of Unit 4 of the Colstrip, Montana coal-fired power plant— half to Northwestern Energy and half to Talen Montana, LLC—and a portion of their interests in the Colstrip Transmission System to Northwestern Energy.

The UTC will be holding two virtual public hearings on Thursday, Oct. 8 to take comments on the sale proposal, at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Anyone wishing to speak at the comment hearing should contact the commission’s Consumer Protection Help Line at 888-333-WUTC (9882) or consumer@utc.wa.gov to sign up for the session you plan to attend.

Members of the public can join the session of their choice by phone or via the Microsoft Teams application.

Session one: 1:30 p.m.

  • To participate in session one by phone, please call 253-372-2181 and enter Conference ID 387 414 077#.
  • To participate via the Microsoft Teams application, join Microsoft Teams meeting.

Session two: 6 p.m.

  • To participate in session two by phone, please call 253-372-2181 and enter Conference ID 508 314 784#.
  • To participate via the Microsoft Teams application, join Microsoft Teams meeting

If you are unable to participate during the virtual meeting, please submit comments:

  • online,
  • via telephone toll-free at 888-333-9882,
  • by email at comments@utc.wa.gov, or
  • by mail to P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA 98504.


In February, PSE filed an application with the commission for an order authorizing the sale of their interests in Colstrip Unit 4 and certain interests in the Colstrip Transmission System.

For the sale of Unit 4, staff testified that it is not certain that the sale of Unit 4 would result in net benefits to customers as PSE proposes, but may in fact end up costing customers due to uncertainty regarding the price of replacement power.

Additionally, based on the information provided by the company, staff was unable to confirm that this sale would be the lowest reasonable cost option for PSE to meet the state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) decarbonization goals.

Separately, in the Colstrip Transmission System sale, staff believed that by selling the property at a depreciated value, PSE would be potentially harming customers by trading away benefits that customers would have received from this asset in the future. Additionally, staff believed that it would be premature for PSE to determine that the system is unneeded when it may provide access to renewable resources in Montana that could be valuable to PSE’s CETA strategy.

Utilities cannot complete a transfer of property without commission approval when the property is necessary to their service, and utilities must demonstrate that the transfer is in the public interest.

The Clean Energy Transformation Act requires electric utilities to eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2025, transition the state's electricity supply to 100% carbon-neutral by 2030, and 100% carbon-free by 2045.

Colstrip is a four unit coal-fired power plant located in Colstrip, Montana.

Bellevue-based PSE provides electricity service to more than 1.1 million electric customers in eight Washington counties: Island, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Pierce, Skagit, Thurston, and Whatcom.

The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.



Editor’s note: The staff testimony can be found at www.utc.wa.gov/200115.