We are committed to providing all customers with utility services that meet their current and future needs, while protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment. We strive to act responsibly to limit impacts on our air, water and land resources.
Avian Protection Plan
Preventing bird and power-line collisions is a longstanding commitment by NorthWestern Energy. The company’s Avian Protection Program has evaluated several power lines for bird collisions. Solutions included installing markers to make the lines more visible to birds and in some instances reconfiguring lines so they are all at the same height to minimize the number of obstructions. In September 2015, the United States Fish & Wildlife Services will announce its decision on whether to classify sage grouse as endangered in accordance with the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, NorthWestern Energy has funded and participated in volunteer efforts to count sage grouse displaying on their dancing grounds or leks. We also participate in an industry collaboration with state and federal agencies to develop a set of Best Management Practices for power line construction in sage grouse habitat. In late 2012, we co-hosted a workshop for electric utility employees, state and federal agencies, and representatives from the
Audubon and Trumpeter Swan Society. Close to 90 participants from across the country learned about avian electrocutions, collision and nesting on power poles along with wind energy as it applies to golden eagles, trumpeter swans and sage grouse.
From the 1830s until the 1950s, prior to the availability of natural gas, manufactured gas or “town gas” was used around the country as fuel for street lamps and homes. Utilities throughout the United States commonly manufactured gas from coal using the available technology at the time. At many of these old manufactured gas plant (MGP) sites, some of the coal tar remained and posed a cleanup challenge to the utilities that own the properties. For the past seven years, we have worked in cooperation with the South Dakota Department of Environment and
Natural Resources to characterize impacts from wastes associated with our long-gone MGP in Aberdeen, S.D., and implement long-term solutions. Using state-of-the art technology, ingenuity and persistence, we eliminated the migration of coal tar into a nearby creek through the city’s storm sewer system and removed approximately 11,000 tons of impacted sediments from the creek.
We also identified and resolved a problem with coal tar infiltrating the city’s sanitary sewer system. In addition, we have installed a massive underground collection pipe system to gather drainable coal tar and we will continue for years to monitor the site closely.
Power Plant Environmental Upgrades
Over the next two years, NorthWestern Energy is investing $115 million into its Big Stone Power Plant, a coal-fired generation facility located in northeastern South Dakota. The investments will ensure Big Stone meets Environmental Protection Agency emission requirements – specifically haze – by the end of 2015 and will extend the life of the plant substantially.
NorthWestern Energy owns 23.4 percent of the maximum output of 475 megawatts of electricity from the plant. Total cost for the upgrade project is about $491 million. Through the project, the plant will have installed state-of-the art equipment, systems and technology that remove sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury from emissions.