Railroad industry agrees to use toxic-chemical rules for crude oil
The CEO of Union Pacific Railroad said that the industry has agreed to use the same rules for transporting toxic chemicals to route trains carrying crude oil.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); Jan. 24
Analysis finds Montana a speed bump on Internet highway
Software developed by a company that started in Kalispell allows users to evaluate Internet download speeds, and a recent national survey found that the average download speed in Montana is 7.3 megabits per second (Mbps), less than half the national average of 18.2 megabits per second, a situation CenturyLink is working to rectify as the company received $1.9 million in federal funding to expand the reach of broadband service to rural areas of the state.
Flathead Beacon; Jan. 24
One could lose oneself for hours in the patterns and erratic splotches of colors. Do I live in a swath of self-righteous green? Or in guilt-ridden, fiery orange? Does urban density really reduce our environmental impact? And how gluttonous are those McMansion-dwelling exurbanites, anyway?
The answers to all these questions and more are now just a mouse-click away thanks to an exhaustive household carbon footprint study, complete with those colorful and hypnotic interactive maps, recently published by University of California Berkeley researchers. Drawing on all sorts of data, from the amount of time folks spend in their cars to the number of rooms in their homes to the sources of energy that power their homes, they were able to determine how much greenhouse gases the average household in a particular geographical area is spewing into the atmosphere. The more you consume, the bigger your carbon footprint.
Yet there is also a bit of a twist. Earlier studies had found a direct, negative correlation between density and carbon footprints — that is, emissions decrease as population density increases. Christopher Jones and Daniel Kammen, the Berkeley researchers, however, “reveal a more nuanced relationship between population density and HCF.” The suburbs just outside those green cities, it turns out, are colored a deep orange on the maps, signifying an unusually large carbon footprint, whether they are densely populated or not. Indeed, the suburban emissions "shadow" tends to blot out the efficiencies of the urban core, making the per capita carbon footprint of big metro areas just as big or bigger than those of smaller, sprawling cities or rural areas.
“As a policy measure to reduce GHG emissions,” Kammen and Jones write, “increasing population density appears to have severe limitations and unexpected trade-offs. In suburbs, we find more population dense suburbs actually have noticeably higher HCF, largely because of income effects.” Yes, income effects: Rich people have bigger carbon footprints, mainly because they live in bigger houses, have more cars and generally consume more of everything.
One-year federal budget leaves PILT funding for counties out of the mix
In 2012, Montana counties that had a portion of non-taxable federal lands within their borders split $26 million in Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes funding from the federal government, but the budget bill signed into law last week by President Obama contained no provision for the federal program, and discussions are underway in Congress to graft PILT funding onto the Farm Bill.
Billings Gazette; Jan. 23
Montana FWP to move forward on bison-management plan
In a letter to participants in September's meeting in Lewistown on bison management, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener said the state will move forward with a bison management study that will include alternatives for reintroduction of wild bison in the state.
Great Falls Tribune; Jan. 23
Yellowstone Park official asks Wyoming to adopt stretch of Beartooth Highway
The Beartooth Highway passes through 35 miles of northern Wyoming on its way between the Montana communities of Red Lodge and Cooke City, and maintenance of the high-elevation highway has been a point of contention since the road opened in 1936, and last week, Yellowstone National Park Supervisor Dan Wenk traveled to Cheyenne to ask Gov. Matt Mead and state transportation officials to consider taking over responsibility for the highway.
Billings Gazette (YellowstoneGate.com); Jan. 21
Tribes, colleges work to build sustainable homes in Indian Country
To address housing shortages on reservations across the country, and to avoid building the problem-plagued pre-fabricated homes built by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tribes and universities are building straw-bale homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
High Country News; Jan. 20
On Jan. 15, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency agreed to give a Utah-based developer $66,000 to help it open a new Starbucks location off of Brooks Street.
If all goes as planned, the Wadsworth Development Group will use $40,800 of the money to demolish the old gas station at the corner of West Central Avenue and Brooks, while $21,000 will go toward new sidewalks and $4,800 to landscaping the right of way.
The funds come from a pot of cash set aside through property tax assessments to eradicate blight in central Missoula. In an effort to improve the neighborhood’s overall livability, the Missoula City Council designated the area along Brooks Street an urban renewal district in 2000.
MRA Director Ellen Buchanan notes that council’s directive is a work in progress. “If you go up to the ‘M,’ it’s not hard to spot urban renewal district III,” she says. “It’s the big gray blob in the middle of Missoula.”
That’s why Buchanan is excited that Wadsworth is coming to town. The new Starbucks, she says, will constitute a vast improvement over the dilapidated gas station that now sits on the half-acre parcel between Taco del Sol and Ruby’s Cafe. “It’s nothing but block walls on three sides,” she says. “It’s not contributing at all to the type of change that we want to see.”
Wadsworth’s building design plans call for a 1,920-square-foot Starbucks with a drive-through window and an outdoor patio. The total project costs, including land acquisition, are estimated at $1,258,163.
While deliberating the merits of Wadsworth’s funding request, MRA noted that the Brooks Street Starbucks is expected to employ 17 people and that five of those positions will be full-time. City coffers, meanwhile, will receive roughly $6,400 in additional annual property tax revenue.
Buchanan notes that Starbucks' anticipated arrival to Brooks Street comes as the city makes gains toward transforming the area into an architecturally attractive environment that’s also increasingly pedestrian and bicycle friendly. MRA made a significant commitment to that effort when agreeing last year to help pay costs associated with construction farther south on Brooks Street of a new Kohl’s department store and Cabela’s Outpost. For that project, the city committed $1.8 million to demolish the former Kmart building, install new sidewalks, landscape and undergo a complete overhaul of the Dore and Brooks intersection.
The new Starbucks is expected to open in June.
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): Actor Casey Affleck appreciates the nurturing power of his loved ones. "My family would be supportive," he says, "if I said I wanted to be a Martian, wear only banana skins, make love to ashtrays, and eat tree bark." I'd like to see you cultivate allies like that in the coming months, Aries. Even if you have never had them before, there's a good chance they will be available. For best results, tinker with your understanding of who your family might be. Redefine what "community" means to you.
TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Author John Koenig says we often regard emotions as positive or negative. Feeling respect is good, for example, while being wracked with jealousy is bad. But he favors a different standard for evaluating emotions: how intense they are. At one end of the spectrum, everything feels blank and blah, even the big things. "At the other end is wonder," he says, "in which everything feels alive, even the little things." Your right and proper goal right now, Taurus, is to strive for the latter kind: full-on intensity and maximum vitality. Luckily, the universe will be conspiring to help you achieve that goal.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): At her blog other-wordly.tumblr.com, Yee-Lum Mak defines the Swedish word resfeber this way: "the restless race of the traveler's heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together." You might be experiencing resfeber right now, Gemini. Even if you're not about to depart on a literal trip, I'm guessing you will soon start wandering out on a quest or adventure that will bring your heart and mind closer together. Paradoxically, your explorations will teach you a lot about being better grounded. Bon voyage!
CANCER (June 21-July 22): How does a monarch butterfly escape its chrysalis when it has finished gestating? Through tiny holes in the skin of the chrysalis, it takes big gulps of air and sends them directly into its digestive system, which expands forcefully. Voila! Its body gets so big it breaks free. When a chick is ready to emerge from inside its egg, it has to work harder than the butterfly. With its beak, it must peck thousands of times at the shell, stopping to rest along the way because the process is so demanding. According to my analysis, Cancerian, you're nearing the final stage before your metaphorical emergence from gestation. Are you more like the butterfly or chick?
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): "I'm not sure where to go from here. I need help." I encourage you to say those words out loud, Leo. Even if you're not sure you believe they're true, act as if they are. Why? Because I think it would be healthy for you to express uncertainty and ask for assistance. It would relieve you of the oppressive pressure to be a masterful problem-solver. It could free you from the unrealistic notion that you've got to figure everything out by yourself. And this would bring you, as if by magic, interesting offers and inquiries. In other words, if you confess your neediness, you will attract help. Some of it will be useless, but most of it will be useful.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Dogs have a superb sense of smell, much better than we humans. But ours isn't bad. We can detect certain odors that have been diluted to one part in five billion. For example, if you were standing next to two Olympic-sized swimming pools, and only one contained a few drops of the chemical ethyl mercaptan, you would know which one it was. I'm now calling on you to exercise that level of sensitivity, Virgo. There's a situation in the early stages of unfolding that would ultimately emanate a big stink if you allowed it to keep developing. There is a second unripe situation, on the other hand, that would eventually yield fragrant blooms. I advise you to either quash or escape from the first, even as you cultivate and treasure the second.
Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey was expected to give county commissioners an update on Jan. 21 on the disarray that has characterized her office. Instead Stamey read from a prepared statement leveling allegations of corruption against commissioners J.R. Iman and Greg Chilcott as well as three former treasurer’s office employees. “What you see in the papers is an orchestrated and vile campaign to destroy my character,” Stamey said, adding that she is requesting “a full investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation” into her accusations.
“I have done nothing illegal,” she said. “It is time to leave my personal life alone. I am not a criminal, and I will not be treated as one.”
Stamey left the county conference room immediately after reading her statement, which did not address the current status of her office nor recent news about past legal troubles.
The latest revelation about Stamey’s backstory came Jan. 15 when the Bitterroot Star published a story based on legal documents from the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Greenville County, S.C. According to those records, Stamey was sued alongside Discover Financial Services in 2010 by Sheriff Law Firm. The firm claimed it had given Stamey—who then went by her maiden name Addis—an $18,149 check made payable to Discover after she refinanced her home in late 2006. Stamey proceeded to “phone pay” Discover the full amount using the law firm’s account information. She then mailed the check and the payment was duplicated, again from the law firm’s account.
In April 2007, Discover reimbursed Stamey $14,721.60. Court records show she made a partial payment of $750 to Sheriff Law Firm in February 2008. “After this payment, no further payment or attempt to pay has been initiated by either Discover or Addis,” the suit states.
A separate legal proceeding that’s so far escaped media attention shows that in November 2007, Stamey filed an $80,000 mortgage on the same home she’d refinanced in 2006. Court records state Stamey failed to meet the stipulations of the mortgage agreement and, in November 2008, a Greenville County judge ordered the property foreclosed. The judge further ruled that Stamey owed Chase Home Finance $87,098.69 for the remaining mortgage principal, interest and attorney’s fees, and that the property be sold at public auction.
At the time she filed the mortgage, Stamey—who did not return calls to her office or home phone—had already relocated to Montana and was four months into her job as food services director for Missoula County Public Schools. According to MCPS, she held that job until she resigned March 18, 2011.
Stamey was first considered for Ravalli County treasurer that same month. The commission instead appointed Chief Deputy Treasurer Marie Keeton, who Stamey then unsuccessfully challenged in the 2012 Republican primary. Keeton resigned last fall, and Stamey was appointed on a 3-2 vote.
Josh Quick's "Camp Sleepover" appears every Tuesday online, and can be seen in the Indy's printed pages every Thursday.
U.S. data: More oil spilled from trains in 2013 than in previous 4 decades
Data from the federal government indicate that last year 1.15 million gallons of crude oil spilled from rail cars, while 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from rail cars in the nearly four decades preceding last year.
Billings Gazette (McClatchy Washington Bureau); Jan. 21
Federal judge rules Montana wind-farm lawsuit to remain in state court
A contract dispute between the owner of Montana's largest wind farm and the California utility purchasing that power will remain in Montana state district court after a federal court judge declined Diego Gas and Electric's request to move the breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by NaturEner to federal court, as the utility is basing its decision to end the contract on the effect the wind farm is having on raptors.
Great Falls Tribune; Jan. 18
Curses, Foiled Again
A group of young men was robbing a man in San Francisco when, without provocation, one of them pulled out a handgun and fired at the victim. The bullet ricocheted off the victim’s face and struck another robber, Clifton Chatman, 16, whom police pronounced dead at the scene. (San Francisco Chronicle)
A woman was leaving work in Oklahoma City when Corneilyus Howeth, 23, jumped into her car and pointed a gun at her. The victim managed to call her brother, who was in a hair salon a few feet away and rushed to help. The gunman forced the two back into the salon and demanded their money. When someone else walked into the salon, witnesses said Howeth pointed the gun at that person, but one of the victims tackled the suspect and hit him with a table leg. After taking the gun from Howeth, the victims stripped him naked, pushed him outside, locked the door and called police. Howeth was arrested after being treated at the hospital for minor injuries. (Oklahoma City’s KWTV-TV)
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