BILLINGS – Coal production in Montana has decreased by more than 3 million tons in the last year, a result attributed to more affordable alternatives such as renewable resources, a federal energy report said.
U.S. Energy Information Administration found that coal mines produced 32.8 million tons this last fiscal year compared to 36.1 million tons a year earlier, The Billings Gazette reported. The state’s fiscal year runs July through June.
The report followed a year where two coal-fired generating units at the Colstrip Power Plant were closed in January and multiple furloughs were implemented across the state’s largest mines during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pennsylvania-based Owners Talen Energy and Washington state-based Puget Sound Energy declared the Colstrip Power Plant units uneconomical in June 2019, saying electricity generated with natural gas or renewable energy sources were more affordable than coal.
Montana’s largest mine Spring Creek Mine laid off 73 workers at the end of April, citing a 12% decline in energy demand, the report said. Decker Coal Company furloughed 98 miners in May for two weeks for similar reasons, but those workers were called back back May 28.
The production decline is also reflected in tax collections where coal severance tax revenue was about $11 million less than a year earlier, the report said.