OPPOSITION: Sierra Club, The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC)
BACKGROUND: The Bull Mountain Power Project was announced in 2001 and was to have included a coal mine and adjacent twin 390-megawatt power plants, costing more than $1.5 billion, near Roundup, north of Billings. The plan also called for a short-line railroad to intersect with a BNSF Railway line near Broadview to ship coal nationally and overseas.
In 2003, the project received permit approval from the State of Montana. Sierra Club, through its legal arm “EarthJustice” then sued to stop construction based on the alleged impact of operations on air quality in Yellowstone National Park. The underground coal mine began producing some coal in early 2004, however it shortly thereafter ceased operations due to the developer’s financial problems. MEIC filed numerous legal challenges to the project based on its alleged CO2 and mercury impacts.
In 2005, the developers were the subject of State enforcement action due to an alleged permit violation. In February 2006, Sierra Club prevailed in its suit claiming federal approval for the project was improper. In October, Montana’s governor announced commencement of a feasibility study for reconfiguring the power plant into a coal-to-liquids (CTL) refinery and 300-MW IGCC plant, with a combined cost of $1.5 – $2 billion. The CTL refinery would convert coal from the mine to diesel or aviation fuel using 200 MW of the electricity produced by the IGCC plant. In December 2006, the developer’s investors sued alleging that the developer had defaulted on an approximate $20 million loan. The investors, however, stated that they intended to see the project through based on the potential CTL development. However, in October 2007, the air permit for the original proposed Roundup plant was revoked when an administrative law judge, in response to a MEIC petition, ruled the 2003 permit void because the developer failed to meet the construction deadline. As a result, the project terminated.
LAST UPDATED: November 29, 2010