President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan could have a devastating, long-term impact on Montana's economy.

UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research Director Patrick Barkey presented the findings of its Clean Power Plan Study on Wednesday in Helena to a group of industry professionals. The study was commissioned by Northwestern Energy.

The EPA has mandated through the Clean Power Plan that by 2030, existing coal fired generating plants reduce carbon pollution by 41 percent. According to Northwestern Energy, this mandate could lead to the shutdown of all four remaining Colstrip coal-fired plants.

Barkey said that worst-case scenario is within the realm of possibility.

"That option calls for the closure of all four units," Barkey said. "The job losses are significant, with over 7,000 jobs lost statewide, One of the implications that is difficult to appreciate, simply because Colstrip has been part of the economy for over 30 years. From low electricity prices paid, especially by industrial customers who purchase their electricity directly through open markets. Not to mention the continued operation of the 500 kilovolt power lines, that run through Missoula County by the way, and pay property taxes all along the way. All these things are called into question, and that's one of the reasons for this study."

Barkey told Northwestern Energy officials and others at today's meeting in Helena that, should they be required to close, losing the Colstrip coal-fired plants would have a negative effect on Montana's economy.