Mike Johnson, business agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 400 said that at least 100 of the 400 Montana miners he represents have been laid off because of slumping coal demand. Johnson cited several reasons for the slump, including idle power plants in Colstrip and Billings.
“Colstrip One and Two are down. Corette is down,” Johnson said. “Right now, you've got big hydropower going. That’s always a big factor in the spring.”
Coal-fired generators like the ones operated by PPL Montana in Colstrip and Billings take a back seat to hydroelectric power every spring when the region’s reservoirs are full. But demand for Montana’s coal-fired energy has been soft for some time. A mild winter kept energy demands low last winter and June temperatures haven’t been hot enough to trigger air conditioners thus far.