Talen Energy’s Butte office will lose all but three employees when a layoff goes into effect on Friday, according to multiple sources at the company who asked for anonymity pending finalized severance agreements.
The exact number of affected employees is unclear; numbers reported to The Montana Standard ranged from 11 to 14 layoffs.
The cuts were reportedly announced to employees in April.
Talen representatives from company headquarters in Pennsylvania did not respond to repeated requests from The Montana Standard for comment during the past three weeks. The local Talen office also declined to make a public statement.
Talen’s Butte office, 45 Basin Creek Rd., is responsible for trading energy generated by the coal-powered Colstrip plant, which Talen Energy operates and partly owns. Retail sales of energy from the plant go primarily to industrial users, including Butte’s REC Silicon.
Tom Michelotti, a real-time trader and one of the employees being laid off from the company, said Thursday that retail sales will continue to be based in Butte for now along with the development of operating plans for the Colstrip plant.
Wholesale transactions of power to consumer-facing energy utilities, which make up the bulk of Talen’s sales, will be contracted to the Houston office of EDF Energy Services, Michelotti said. A representative from EDF North America declined to comment on any impending changes but confirmed that EDF is contracted with Talen Energy to provide energy trading services.
Michelotti completed the hiring process at EDF and will relocate to Houston to work there, the only Talen employee to do so, he said.
"It's a shame to see good paying jobs leave Butte," said Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Dave Palmer.
At least seven cut employees will be retiring, according to one source, who praised the “generous” severance package but added that none of them had been planning to leave the workforce just yet and that they loved the company.
“It’s been sad, very sad. People that have worked together for approximately 15 to 20 years are seeing the end,” said one current employee. “It’s very solemn. It’s very sad to see this talented group of people who had worked so long now finding themselves at the end of the road.”
State Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte, said that he feels terrible about the loss of jobs in Butte but that he is even more concerned about what's ahead for Colstrip and the Butte businesses that rely on it.
After operating it since 2015, Talen announced last year that it would cease operating the Colstrip plant in May 2018 and that the other five owners would need to find a new operator.
Units 1 and 2 of the plant are slated to close by July 2022 per a settlement with the Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center in a lawsuit over Clean Air Act violations. Unfavorable market conditions and anti-coal legislation in Oregon and Washington, which purchase most of Colstrip’s power, have created uncertainty about whether the units will be able to remain open until that deadline.