HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Data released as part of a recently settled freedom-of-information lawsuit show that PPL Montana spent more than $127 million over eight years in capital improvements at the Colstrip power plant.
The Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club requested the data from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 under the federal Freedom of Information Act. MEIC program director Anne Hedges said her organization wanted to know when PPL made changes to the coal-fired plant and at what cost.
"Is there a better way to spend money for ratepayers and the environment? The answer to me is yes. But without this data we can't really find out what they're spending on a regular basis," Hedges said.
PPL filed a lawsuit against the EPA last year to prevent the data's release, saying it contains trade secrets that are exempt from FOIA. But at a settlement conference Wednesday, the sides agreed to release a version of the spreadsheet that discloses the project name, year and cost, but withholds other information.
The results of the settlement conference became known Monday, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ordered the parties to file dismissal papers by Dec. 11.
PPL spokesman David Hoffman said the agreement was satisfactory to the company.
"We think that the settlement pretty well covered all the concerns we had," he said.
The 12-page spreadsheet contains information about every capital project that cost more than $100,000 between 1995 and 2003 at the southeastern Montana plant, the second largest coal-fired plant west of the Mississippi River. The costs for projects run from the minimum $100,000 for a "river station" to more than $8.6 million for a rotor.
The environmental groups agreed in the settlement not to use the document in litigation against the Colstrip owners, but they can request the full document in future lawsuits.
The EPA also will not work on a similar freedom-of-information request for the Corette power plant unless that plant does not shut down in 2015 as scheduled.