Lewis and Clark Power Plant

Americans usually think of the leaders of great expeditions with the mention of the famous names of Lewis and Clark, but people who live in Sidney, Montana, are likely to think about the fossil fuel-fired plant in that area that goes by that name. The Montana-Dakota Utilities Company operates this plant that produces 48,000 kilowatts of electricity while burning coal or natural gas.

The Lewis and Clark Power Plant was originally designed to run on lignite when it first began serving its customers in 1958.  Lignite is also known as soft brown fuel or brown coal, which is much easier to transform into gas. It is also a cheaper fuel than its counterpart natural gas. This plant makes a practice of having a ten day supply of fuel onsite at all times while another two weeks supply is held in reserve at an offsite facility. This plant boasts smoke stacks, generators, and settling ponds.

The Montana-Dakota Utilities Company got its start back in 1924 with the purpose of supplying utility services to the small communities surrounding the area whose primary source of income was agriculture. It has since grown to encompass three sister companies based out of Bismarck, North Dakota. This utility company provides electricity and natural gas to many areas of Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming, with approximately 355,000 customers.

Westmoreland Coal Company, which is the oldest independent coal company in the United States, also supplies coal to the Lewis and Clark Power Plant. Westmoreland was received recognition from Montana with the Governor’s Award for Safety and Health in the mine category.

The Lewis and Clark Power Plant is just one among many power plants that likely utilized asbestos, a fibrous mineral, for its insulation value during construction of this facility. While the inclusion of asbestos was intended to protect machinery and equipment, it has been shown to be a toxic material to workers. Once inhaled, the fibers of this mineral remains in the respiratory tract where its fibers damage organs and cause cancer in the form of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma attacks the lining of the pleural cavity and has proven to be relatively untreatable. Even mild to moderate exposure to asbestos is enough to cause this devastating disease.