Monday, May 13, 2013

Rockies Today, May 13

Posted By on Mon, May 13, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Water-rights issue snarls Montana town's project
Last Friday, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation put funding for the Conrad/Brady pipeline project, designed to provide Brady residents until the Pondera County Canal and Reservoir Co. (PCCRC) completes a change of use application for the rights to Conrad's municipal water source, which PCCRC now owns.
Great Falls Tribune; May 13

Two Alberta communities evacuated as high winds drive wildfires closer
Wildfires driven by high winds forced the evacuation of Nordbegg and Lodgepole on Sunday, nearly two years to the day that another Alberta wildfire destroyed the town of Slave Lake.
Edmonton Journal; May 13

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Why you shouldn't gamble at a carnival (and more from In Other News)

Posted By on Mon, May 13, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Curses, Foiled Again
A teller at a Washington, D.C., bank failed to comply with a robber’s demands because she didn’t understand them. The holdup note read simply “100s 50s 20s 10s.” Authorities said the teller handed the note back to the robber, who added “all mona.” Still not comprehending, she told him to leave. Three blocks away, the robber entered a second bank, where the teller was equally confused, until the man announced he wanted “what’s on that,” referring to the note. “Oh my God, are we getting robbed?” the teller said and alerted security, causing the man to flee. Police arrested suspect Maurice Fearwell, 20, a block away. (The Washington Post)

Marius Ionescue, 31, was burglarizing a home in Benesti, Romania, when he heard a noise. Fearing it might be another thief, he hid and called police. Officers showed up, searched the house and found no one but Ionescue, whom they arrested. The noise he heard, police official Mihaela Straub said, “was probably just the family cat.” (UK’s Metro)

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Hangriest Hour: The Bavarian Brat

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 4:03 PM

When you're hangry and thirsty on a Friday afternoon, it's tough to know which call to heed. Fortunately we found a way to satisfy both...

This week: The Bavarian Brat from Bayern Brewing

What you're eating: Bayern has long billed itself as the "only German microbrewery in the Rockies"—a bragging right that goes well beyond the brewery's strict adherence to the German purity law. Bayern also imports traditional Bavarian brats all the way from owner Jürgen Knöller's homeland, in three flavors: smoked, jalapeno cheese or chicken andouille. No limp backyard Johnsonville knockoffs here. No stale buns or watered-down generic ketchup. Bayern's as picky about wurst as it is about bocks and weizens, serving up your beer-time snack in a hollowed-out baguette with toppings ranging from Hawaiian pineapple mustard to an imported German curry ketchup.

Who you're eating with: Odds are you won't be the only one chowing down on the patio. Taproom tender Jenna Behle says the a la carte brats have developed a strong following, and continue to catch on with newer Bayern patrons. "I feel like once you get them into your rotation, the same people always get a brat." The a la carte brats are available now, but the brewery hopes to rekindle an old tradition of offering fresh-grilled brats on the patio during summer weekends. An independent cook used to prepare brat platters complete with potato salad every Friday from April through October, but he retired last year. Brewer Justin Lee says the brewery is actively scouting for a replacement.

What you're drinking with it: On a recent Friday, the chicken andouille brat—which Behle carefully notes is the spiciest of the three—paired well with a pint of Bayern's Dump Truck Summer Bock. But you could easily opt for a St. Wilbur, Dancing Trout or Maibock instead. As Behle says, "I think the type of beer depends more on the season than the brat."

Where to get one: Bayern Brewing serves brats a la carte every day from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. for $4 a piece. Bring your appetite to 1507 Montana St.

Hangriest Hour serves up fresh details on western Montana eats. To recommend a restaurant, dish or chef for Hangriest Hour, email

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Rockies Today, May 10

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Montana FWP commission takes testimony on changes to wolf hunt rules
At the meeting Thursday of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, sportsmen's groups spoke in support of an extended hunting season for wolves, as well as allowing hunters and trappers to take up to five wolves per hunting season, and wildlife advocates argued that the changes are too liberal and will give the state a black eye.
Helena Independent Record; May 10

Officials in E. Montana criticize governor's veto of oil, gas impact funds bill
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said House Bill 218, which would have provided $35 million in state funding to communities in the eastern portion of the state where oil and gas development is straining resources and infrastructure, was one of several bills he had to veto because they pushed spending beyond revenue.
Helena Independent Record; May 10

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

DOJ concludes UM investigation

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 1:37 PM

During a joint press conference this morning, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and representatives from the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorneys Office revealed findings from the DOJ and Department of Education's year-long investigation into UM's handling of sexual assaults. The presser was relatively uninformative, with U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter thanking Engstrom for his cooperation and leadership, Engstrom complimenting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin for the DOJ's smooth and efficient investigation, and all of them concurring that the "agreements" reached between the agencies and the university to make the campus safer would be implemented swiftly and effectively.


What was less emphasized during the three men's prepared remarks was the fact that the DOJ investigation, according to Austin, found the university has a "significant problem" in its handling of sexual assaults. Among the findings, which are outlined in a 17-page letter addressed to Engstrom, are the following:

1) "[The] investigation showed that [the Office for Public Safety] does not adequately respond to reports of sexual assault, and that its policies and training related to sexual assault response are insufficient and, until recently, nonexistent.

2) " August 2012, while [the] investigation was underway, most OPS officers participated in two days of training about sexual assault investigation ... Although that training is an important first step, the University must do more to prepare OPS officers ... Our review revealed gaps in knowledge both too broad and too specific to Montana law to be fully remedied by this two-day training that focused on interview and interrogation techniques."

3) "Prior to [August 2012], only two of OPS' 11 full-time officers and detectives had received specific training on sexual violence, and the most recent of this training had occurred over five years ago."

4) "We found that initial interviews [by OPS officers] of women reporting sexual assault are sometimes deficient to the extent that they discourage women from reporting sexual assaults or from participating in law enforcement's investigation of the incident."

5) "We found that unwarranted gender-based assumptions and stereotypes influence OPS' initial response to sexual assault."

In response to the findings, which are mostly focused on OPS, the DOJ also released a set of "agreements" it has reached with the university. They include the hiring of an independent "equity consultant" who will "evaluate and recommend revisions to the University's policies" and report back to the DOJ, and that "to clarify, and dispel any confusion about where and how students should report various types of sex discrimination, by May 30, 2013, the University ... will draft revisions to its policies and procedures related to sex-based harassment." The agreements, which go on for 16 pages, also include guidelines on training employees, tracking complaints of sex-based harassment and new reporting provisions. The document stipulates the university implement the agreements by December 31, 2015.

Below are full transcripts of the DOJ's prepared remarks:

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Mixed messages on methane

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 11:30 AM

There was a time when environmentalists were all googly-eyed about natural gas, primarily because the cleaner-burning fossil fuel was far more climate-friendly than coal — or so it seemed. The Sierra Club and Chesapeake Energy even became allies in the fight to phase out coal. But as tales of tainted water and polluted air emerged from worried gas patch residents, big environmental groups grew more distant. Soon, natural gas seemed to entirely lose its luster. It’s true that natural gas is cleaner than coal when burned, but it’s mostly made of methane — a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2. And a series of recent studies all seemed to conclude that a lot of methane was leaking into the atmosphere throughout the the natural gas supply chain — too much, it seemed, for it to be crowned the cleanest of fossil fuels.

Then, this week, the Environmental Protection Agency further complicated the narrative. It lowered its estimate of how much methane leaked out along the supply chain by about 20 percent. The revision, according to the Associated Press has “major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in hydraulic fracturing help or hurt the fight against climate change?”

How much methane is actually leaking out as natural gas is produced and consumed does, indeed, have big implications for that debate. Troubling measurements taken in two Utah and Colorado gas fields last year show that nine and four percent of methane produced there, respectively, was escaping — a lot more than expected and more than the 3.2 percent or less rate needed for gas to be better for the climate than coal. But despite this study, and the EPA's softer assessment of leakage, we still don’t have a firm grasp on how much of the gas is being lost to the atmosphere in all of our major gas fields, or from well-to-consumer.

Methane capturing equipment at a natural gas well.
  • Methane capturing equipment at a natural gas well.

And that’s what we need to know to really have that debate — and to figure out to what extent those losses can be stemmed with emissions control technology. Here are some of the reasons the information we have so far is incomplete: The EPA’s estimates are not based on field measurements. When field measurements aren’t available, emissions rates for pollutants can be calculated using typical leakage rates for equipment or valves measured in factories or labs. But in the field, as equipment weathers and ages, actual emissions can be quite higher. So, EPA’s estimates are just that: estimates. The Utah and Colorado studies, while based on field measurements, aren't a scientific indictment of every gas field everywhere. That is, those rates aren’t necessarily representative of other gas fields’ emissions, partly because control requirements and production methods are inconsistent.

In a few weeks, the first results of the most comprehensive attempt to measure the gas industry's methane emissions in the U.S. are expected to be made public. That study, a collaboration between the University of Texas-Austin, the Environmental Defense Fund, Duke, Harvard and Boston universities, and a number of industry partners, will directly measure fugitive emissions across the supply chain to “determine the true parameters of the problem,” according to EDF. The first phase will quantify emissions during production in the country's major gas fields. Even when the whole thing is complete, there will, inevitably, still be questions to answer, but we should be able to have a much more informed debate about the proper role of natural gas in our energy and climate future. Until then, it’d be wise to heed this cautionary note from Environmental Defense Fund scientist Steven Hamburg, on drawing broad conclusions from the info we have so far:

Great care should be taken to avoid drawing conclusions based on the partial data these studies provide. This will be a particular challenge given that advocates for natural gas production are likely to call attention to the low-leakage results, while opponents of natural gas production are likely to call attention to the high-leakage results, with each side claiming that the latest study “proves” its argument. Neither claim will be reliably accurate.

In other words, anyone who wants to get this important story right will need to be patient and wait for the more comprehensive results to come in later this year. Until then, no accurate conclusion can be drawn about the full scope of this critical issue. Please proceed with caution.

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Rockies Today, May 9

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Ambre Energy, Cloud Peak deal to export Montana coal stalls
Australia-based Ambre Energy's deal to take full control of Cloud Peak's Decker coal mine in Montana near the Wyoming border has stalled again, with the parties seeking an extension of the May 10 deadline to finalize the deal to July 12.
Flathead Beacon (AP); May 9

Colorado county sheriff opens investigation of wild-horse buyer
After a ProPublica investigation found that Tom Davis, a Colorado horse buyer, had purchased more than 1,700 horses from the Bureau of Land Management, but could only account for 765 of the horses he had transported elsewhere, officials in the state have been debating who should investigate Davis for not adhering to state brand inspection laws, and last week the Conejos County Sheriff's Office opened an investigation.
Colorado Springs Gazette; May 9

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rockies Today, May 8

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Montana consumers, farmers divided on bill to label genetically modified foods
Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester supports the "Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act," which would require all foods that contain genetically modified organisms be so labeled, but Montana farmers who grow GMO corn, sugar beets and alfalfa, oppose the measure, while natural food stores say voluntary labeling of non-GMO foods is taking off.
Billings Gazette; May 8

Drones used to count sandhill cranes in Colorado, pygmy rabbits in Idaho
Technology developed for military use has been given a new mission monitoring the natural world, with drones equipped with thermal imaging used to count roosting sandhill cranes at night in Colorado and pygmy rabbits in Idaho's backcountry.
New York Times; May 8

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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): The Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico are renowned for their ability to run long distances. The best runners can cover 200 miles in two days. The paths they travel are not paved or smooth, either, but rather the rough canyon trails that stretch between their settlements. Let's make them your inspirational role models in the coming week, Aries. I'm hoping that you will be as tough and tenacious as they are—that you will pace yourself for the long haul, calling on your instinctual strength to guide you.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Boundary water disputes

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Imagine discovering that the clear, rushing water of the river in your remote neck-of-the-woods is contaminated with nitrates, sulfates, and selenium — a toxic heavy metal that causes deformities in fish. Then, to complicate things, imagine that the source of the pollution is upstream in another, neighboring country with its own leaders and environmental laws. What would you do?

That's the situation on the Kootenai River (spelled Kootenay in Canada) in northwestern Montana. Five mines digging high-grade metallurgical coal along the Elk River, a tributary of the Kootenai in British Columbia, have been contaminating the Kootenai for years, according to a recent study conducted by University of Montana scientists. Now, four of those mines want to expand, one new coal mine is being proposed, and three new mine exploration projects are under way.


“This is an international problem that will require an international solution," Michael Jamison, Crown of the Continent program manager with the National Parks Conservation Association, recently told The Missoulian. The first step, he and others say, is to enlist the aid of the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canada organization created over a century ago to handle these kinds of water disputes.

The International Joint Commission was established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. At that time, Canada and the U.S. were bickering over rights to irrigation water diverted from rivers like the Milk, which spans the Montana-Alberta border in dry but fertile farm country. The treaty addressed these irrigation concerns, along with issues of waterway navigability and water quality. To mediate future conflicts, the treaty set up the IJC, a permanent commission consisting of three Americans and three Canadians appointed by each country's highest level of government. The commissioners have a mix of policy and science experience, and the two chairmen — one from each country — serve on the IJC as a full-time job.

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