In late April, Ray Stillwell, president of Green Investment Group, Inc., which in 2011 acquired the former Smurfit-Stone pulp mill near Frenchtown, penned a letter to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock imploring him to reconsider his administration’s support for the proposed federal Superfund designation. Stillwell said he “very strongly” prefers state oversight, citing the “uncertainty associated with lengthy processes” required by the Environmental Protection Agency, and noted his company’s “proven track record of completing successful voluntary remediation of other sites.”
Attached to the letter was a packet of materials intended to support Stillwell’s case. One of the items was a letter from Missoula attorney Thad Huse, who wrote that he’s helped GIGI lure potential new businesses to the property, and attested to a “multi-dollar transaction, which would involve economic development and benefit, that is on hold and in jeopardy, because of the potential Superfund listing of the site by the EPA.”
But as state and federal officials determine how to clean up the 3,200 acres of contaminated land along the Clark Fork River northwest of Missoula, which is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, GIGI’s environmental track record isn’t inspiring confidence, and promises of economic development are becoming harder to believe. The company’s cleanups at two of the shuttered mills it owns in the U.S. and Canada—neither of which were near the scale of what’s required at the Frenchtown mill—are outweighed by a pattern of unmet expectations, litigiousness and doubts over the company’s solvency.
Groups urge BLM to delay decision on 198M-ton coal lease in Montana
Cloud Peak Energy has applied to expand its Spring Creek Mine in southeast Montana by 1,600 acres, and on Wednesday, federal and state officials will take up that application, but environmental groups said the hearing should be delayed, given the recent report that questioned the BLM's pricing of such leases.
Flathead Beacon (AP); June 18
Mine developer to make presentation tonight in Montana
The Russell Country Sportsmen's Association has invited representatives of Tintina Resources, the company that wants to develop copper resources on private land near White Sulphur Springs to make a presentation on the Montana project at its monthly meeting tonight at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' headquarters on Giant Springs Road in Great Falls.
Great Falls Tribune; June 18
In fact, journalists generally drink whatever they can get their hands on or whatever fits the occasion. During last weekend’s Montana Newspaper Association annual convention, hosted in Missoula, we decided to try an appropriate cocktail for the festivities: The Journalist.
The scoop: The Journalist calls for 1.5 teaspoons of sweet vermouth, 1.5 teaspoons dry vermouth, half teaspoon of triple sec, 1.5 ounces of gin, half teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 dash of bitters. Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Inside source: We scored ours at Brooks and Browns, inside the convention’s host hotel, The Holiday Inn Downtown. The Journalist had been described to us as essentially a “perfect” martini, meaning it includes equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, but bartender Bridget Stokes disagrees. “It’s not a martini if it includes more than gin,” she says. “This is just a mixed drink in an up glass.”
Editorial comment: The Journalist is crisp and dry, but as Stokes’ colleague Aime Macdonald points out, it’s the type of drink “where you only have one, maybe.” This journalist downed his and promptly switched back to cheap whiskey.
Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal judge in Montana dismisses oil, gas leasing challenge
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Montana Environmental Information Center, WildEarth Guardians and Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project that sought to block gas and oil leases on 800,000 acres in Montana in a bid to force actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); June 15
Montana tribe's coal future tied up in export fight
As domestic demand for coal in the United States declines, companies are tapping export markets in Asia and elsewhere, but U.S. port capacity must expand in order to fill international orders, a move that has sparked fierce opposition.
New York Times; June 15
Public comment period on Yellowstone Park's winter-use plan closes today
If you haven't yet commented on the latest winter-use plan for Yellowstone National Park, you have until midnight June 17 to do so.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); June 15
The New York Times tracks wild-horse management in the U.S.
The Retro Report provides a retrospective on the history of wild horses in the United States and the Bureau of Land Management's policies riding herd on those animals.
New York Times; June 17
Geldings begin their semi-wild life on a Montana ranch
The 710 young geldings released on the Spanish Q Ranch in Montana have spent all of their lives in Bureau of Land Management holding corrals, making the young horses wary of exploring their new range.
Billings Gazette (AP); June 15
Curses, Foiled Again
A police officer stopped a car for a traffic violation in Clayton, Mo., and asked driver Joseph Meacham, 39, to step out. Meacham obliged but then shoved the officer and fled on foot. He ducked into a building, which turned out to be St. Louis County police headquarters. After Meacham was arrested at gunpoint, Officer Korey Golcynski noted, “It appears the subject had no idea where he was going.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Fugitive Dennis Gholston, 45, attracted the attention of New Jersey State Police by driving alone on the New Jersey Turnpike’s high-occupancy-vehicle lane, which requires vehicles to have three occupants. Sgt. Adam Grossman said troopers searched the car after smelling marijuana and found 410 decks of heroin. A records check uncovered fugitive and traffic warrants. (Newark’s The Star-Ledger)
Sen. Jon Tester has all but said "I told you so" through the national media in the wake of a damning Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court leak earlier this month. The revelation that government officials secured massive amounts of data on calls made by Verizon customers has renewed the debate about sacrificing liberties to chase down potential terrorists. Last week, Tester told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that "to have a FISA court basically give a perpetual court order to get telephone records not only of foreign calls but also domestic calls I think goes against what this country's founded upon." It challenges our civil liberties, he said, and marks a serious overreach by the federal government. And it's all thanks to a section of the Patriot Act, which Tester explained was one of the very reasons he first ran for office back in 2006. Here's the full interview:
Indeed, our government's response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were at the center of a particularly heated exchange between Tester and then-Sen. Conrad Burns during the 2006 campaign. Even then Tester voiced his concerns with the Patriot Act without hesitation. When Burns shot back, accusing Tester of wanting to "weaken" the law, Tester's reply said it all. "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it ... What it does is this: It takes away your freedoms."
It's nice to see that six and a half years in Washington D.C.—and a seat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs—hasn't put out that fire. Tester recently sent an email to his constituents asking them to support a full repeal of the Patriot Act in light of the FISA/National Security Agency leaks. In another MSNBC interview yesterday with The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd, Tester acknowledged that he's still "very skeptical" of certain provisions in the Patriot Act. "This country is really founded upon freedom and liberty, and we need to be very careful to maintain that," Tester said, adding that an earnest conversation about how to keep the country safe without sacrificing those freedoms is key in making sure that the "pendulum stays in the middle and doesn't swing too far to the side of government overreach." Again, here's the full interview:
Todd's chat with Tester took a more light-hearted near the end, with a question about Brian Schweitzer's potential Senate bid in 2014. Tester was confident enough to say he'd "bet the farm" that the branding-iron-wielding former governor will run, and if there's anything Tester takes as seriously as the Patriot Act, it's his family's farm spread just west of Big Sandy. "My crystal ball is still a little cloudy," he told Todd. "But I anticipate he's going to get in to this thing."
Appeals court orders BLM to study range of grazing options in Montana
Western Watersheds Project, which filed the lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over its grazing plan for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and, in particular, the Woodhawk allotment, claimed victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision rendered that said the BLM must study a range of options for grazing permits, but the BLM said the decision upheld its general grazing plan for the Montana monument and only found fault with its plan for the Woodhawk allotment.
Great Falls Tribune; June 14
Grocer group accuses potato-grower association of price fixing
In a lawsuit that is now in federal court of Idaho, Associated Wholesale Grocers has accused United Potato Growers of America, which represents growers in 15 states, including Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, as well as 24 other defendants, of intentionally limiting planting and destroying harvested potatoes to keep prices of the popular tuber high.
Idaho Statesman (AP); June 14
It's springtime in the West, that time of year when brooks babble abundantly with snowmelt, cute baby wildlife prance around verdant meadows, blossoms cover tree branches like virgin snow, and it all goes up in flames. Hoping to keep as close an eye on the burning West as I do on my runs and bike rides, I scoured the Intertubes for the appropriate apps. Zillions of these things saturate the cyber world, and a lot of them are downright duds. But after many a download, I came up with a select few that I can recommend.
1. Weather Underground (FREE): This is my go-to weather app, for sure. The home screen has just about all the relevant information you could want: current conditions, forecast for the next several days, radar map, "Find Your Love" ad, and a weather watch/warning icon that displays the entire warning at a touch. The app also has an hourly forecast, which has proven to be fairly accurate. The map screen includes radar, but also a huge network of web cams that allow one to see the weather, just about anywhere, at any given moment, allowing you to track storms across the landscape.
Earlier this year I tried out Weathermob, which is entirely crowdsourced: The only reports they have are from the "mob" out there, which would be you and me. Great idea, not a great execution, in my opinion. It's really more like a weather-oriented social media app than a weather information app, and as much about how you feel than about an accurate accounting of the current weather.
3. Dust Storm (FREE): Wanna know when the next Haboob is going to hit? This app, developed by Northern Arizona University, will tell you, as well as give you helpful tips about what to do once the wall of dust envelopes you. I had hoped that it would allow me to track dust storms as they moved across the Arizona desert or something. But this thing's way more bare bones than that, doing little more than sending you current weather alerts for your area. And that's about it. It could be helpful if you're actually in the path of a dust storm, but not so great for the generally weather-obsessed.
2. Wildfire from American Red Cross (FREE): If you live in the wildland urban interface, this might be the app for you. It allows you to monitor as many areas as you choose, and sends alerts when there are fires in those areas, along with a detailed description of the fire. It gives a check list of what to do as the fire approaches, a "toolkit" that can instantly turn your phone into a flashlight or strobe light, an immediate link to the Twitter feed for particular fires and to various social media to do a quick notification letting friends know you're safe.
I also tried out Burnt Planet because, well, who could resist a name like that? Relying on data from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers aboard NASA satellites, it pinpoints "hotspots" — which could be wildfires or someone burning their field — around the world. It's good for a broad, global overview, but that's about it. There are no data about individual fires.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: These apps are just another waste of time thrown at us by the Internet, like our "friends" telling us on Facebook what they had for breakfast; a high-tech form of voyeurism — worse, disaster voyeurism — that draws us into our electronic devices and sucks us away from the real world. After all, I can figure out the weather simply by stepping outside. And if a fire's approaching, I'll see the plume of smoke long before my gadget sends me a warning—if I bother to look up from my phone's glowing, beckoning little screen, that is.
Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor at High Country News, hcn.org. This is cross-posted from the site. The author is solely responsible for the content.
Arkansas company begins drilling for rare-earth minerals in Montana
U.S. Rare Earths began exploratory drilling for rare earth minerals along a 60-mile stretch of Lemhi Pass on the Montana side of the border with Idaho, and the Arkansas company has also applied for permits from Idaho for such drilling.
Billings Gazette; June 13
Black Forest fire burns its way into Colorado record books with 360 homes lost
The El Paso County Sheriff expanded the evacuation zone for the Black Forest Fire in Colorado as high winds and high temperatures were forecast for today, and on Thursday morning, the sheriff confirmed that 360 homes had been destroyed by the fire so far, breaking the record of 347 homes burned in the state set by the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire.
Denver Post; June 13
Wildfire in Colorado's Royal Gorge destroys tram car, buildings
The Royal Gorge Fire, which has destroyed structures at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, was reported to be 3,000 acres in size on Wednesday afternoon, and due to limited firefighting resources, the Fremont County Commission voted to immediately impose Stage 1 Fire Restrictions in the Colorado county.
Denver Post (Canon City Daily Record); June 13
Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Irish poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan didn't confine his lyrical wit to well-crafted poems on the printed page. He used it to say things that would advance his practical ambitions. For example, when he first met the woman who would eventually become his wife, he said to her, "Why don't you come into my garden? I would like my roses to see you." That's the kind of persuasive power I hope you will summon in the coming days, Aries. According to my analysis of the omens, you should have it in abundance. So what's the best use of this mojo? Is there anything you would really like to sell? What new resources do you want to bring into your sphere? Who do you want to convince?
…In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes,…
Interested in learning more about the proposed Superfund designation at Smurfit-Stone?
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Disclosure: I own this company.