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Week in Review

Top stories from Nov. 23 through Nov. 27:

In News to track, the U.S. Interior Department announced that it would cancel the long-suspended leases held by Louisiana-based Solonex in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Montana considered sacred by the Blackfeet Nation. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the leases would be canceled by Dec. 11, but the attorney representing Solonex, called the decision "insane," and said that the company would continue to fight the cancellation of those leases.

Alberta rolled out its climate change plan on Sunday that called for the shut down of all coal-fired power plants by 2030 and for the oil and gas industry to slash its methane emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and the coal and oil and gas industry quickly responded to the plan.

And in neighboring British Columbia, Burnaby lost a third round in its ongoing fight to keep the Trans Mountain pipeline out of its community. The Supreme Court of British Columbia found that the National Energy Board's rules trumped the community's rules, affirming earlier decisions from the National Energy Board and the Federal Court of Appeals.
Mountain West Perspective

Montana's two-year colleges revamp curricula to meet changing workplace demands

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews Kim Heacox's first novel, Jimmy Bluefeather
Oct. 29, 2015

Mountain West Voices

Yellowstone Public Radio broadcasts Mountain West Voices, a program that offers extraordinary stories of ordinary people throughout the region, on Sunday mornings at 7 o'clock. 

Tune into Yellowstone Public Radio at 7 a.m. on Sunday or listen online via the Mountain West Voices website.

A Look Ahead

Dec. 4-5: Western Governors' Association's Winter Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada

News to track

Interior Dept. to cancel Badger-Two Medicine leases in Montana
In a court filing Nov. 23, the U.S. Interior Department announced that it intends to cancel the oil and gas leases on the Badger-Two Medicine area in Montana considered sacred by the Blackfeet Nation and that the cancellation process will be completed by Dec. 11. The attorney for the Louisiana company that owns the leases, Solonex, called the decision "insane," and said the company will fight it.
Flathead Beacon; 11/24/2015

Alberta's sweeping climate change policy focus of meeting today
All of Canada's premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet today in Ottawa, with the focus of the first ministers' meeting devising a plan for the country prior to the international climate change talks in Paris next week, and Alberta's far-ranging plan that imposes a province-wide carbon tax and limits emissions from oilsands operations will take centerstage at the meeting.
Toronto Globe and Mail; 11/21/2015

  • Oil, gas industry protests Alberta's methane reduction plan
    Alberta's climate change plan released this week calls for the oil and gas industry to reduce methane emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, a move the industry said will add hundreds of millions of dollars to costs at a time when companies are struggling due to low prices.
    Calgary Herald (Financial Post); 11/24/2015
  • Coal industry takes umbrage at burden imposed by Alberta climate change plan
    After Alberta rolled out its plan to address climate change that called for an end to coal-fired power production by 2030, the coal industry fired back, saying that the province should be focusing on developing technology to make coal burning cleaner rather than shutting down the industry.
    Calgary Herald; 11/24/2015
B.C. Supreme Court rules against Burnaby in pipeline fight
The City of Burnaby passed two bylaws designed to hamper the preliminary planning progress of the Trans Mountain pipeline through the Metro Vancouver city, and the British Columbia Supreme Court's decision issued affirmed earlier decisions by the National Energy Board and the Federal Court of Appeals that the National Energy Board's rules take precedence over the city's, and ordered Burnaby to pay court costs.
Vancouver Sun (Canadian Press); 11/24/2015


Colorado oil, gas rule-making stalls on giving all a voice
After last week's rule-making hearings before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission failed to make any progress on new rules designed to give local authorities more control over drilling operations, the Commission set another session on Dec. 7, with plans for another session if needed later on, but it appears unlikely that the Commission will meet its goal of having the final rules ready for the Legislature when it convenes on Jan. 13.
Denver Post; 11/24/2015

Old, New West collide in rural Idaho
In areas of Idaho, and other open-range states, motorists that hit cattle that roam rural areas where they're not fenced out of, are not only be responsible for their wrecked car, but also for the animal they hit, and some say that it's time for open-range laws to change, given the changes in the landscape in recent decades, and the fatal encounter between an Idaho rancher and two deputy sheriffs in Adams County after a vehicle struck a bull on open range has reignited the call for those laws to change.
Twin Falls Times-News; 11/23/2015

EPA releases final report on asbestos risk in NW Montana communities
The Human Health Risk Assessment for the Libby Asbestos Superfund released last Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will drive the final cleanup efforts in northwest Montana is virtually unchanged from the draft assessment released last year that covers Libby, Troy and other unincorporated areas of Lincoln County. EPA officials said it's likely the Record of Decision, which will detail exactly what work will be done, will be issued by the end of this year.
Flathead Beacon; 11/20/2015

W. Montana city adopts new growth plan on unanimous vote
On Monday, the Missoula City Council unanimously approved a plan to guide the Montana city's growth through 2035. The plan focuses on keeping the community compact to ensure efficient use of services with infill development.
Missoulian; 11/24/2015

Aurora City Council OKS plan to create urban core in Colorado city
On Monday, the Aurora City Council approved a plan for mixed use development around the new light rail station in the Colorado city's core that city officials said will create an urban center with retail shops, high-density housing and restaurants.
Denver Post; 11/24/2015

Wyoming senator introduces bill to take wolves off endangered list
On Nov. 10, Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso introduced companion legislation to that introduced by Rep. Cynthia Lummis in the House that would remove federal protection for wolves in the state. The bills would also return management of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan back to the states, and allow wolf hunts in those states to resume.
Jackson Hole Daily; 11/23/2015

Idaho has cash on hand to help ranchers keep wolves from livestock
At the Idaho Fish and Game Commission's quarterly meeting in Hailey last week, attendees asked commissioners to transfer some of the money in the fund that pays for lethal control of wolves that prey on livestock to the fund that provides ranchers funding for guard dogs, herders and wolf-scaring devices to keep wolves away from livestock, but commissioners said by law they cannot do so, and that there was still money in the preventive measures fund from the last federal round of funding so no new federal funding will be allocated this year.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); 11/25/2015

Idaho Land Board votes to move forward with sage grouse plan
On Tuesday, the Idaho Land Board unanimously voted to move forward with the state's plan to preserve sage grouse habitat on state endowment lands, despite Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's continued frustration with the federal government's plan to protect sage grouse habitat on federal lands.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 11/25/2015

Federal judge in Nevada gives parties in sage grouse dispute more time
The federal judge, who heard arguments last week in a lawsuit filed by nine Nevada counties and two mining companies for a temporary injunction on new federal sage grouse protections, said evidence introduced at the hearing about the new rules forcing White Pine County to abandon its plan to replace a leaking water tank created more questions than answers, and gave the parties until Dec. 28 to submit more evidence, which means the judge's decision won't be rendered until after Christmas.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 11/25/2015

Public Lands
Wyoming wends its way toward protecting wildlife migration path
In 2010, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission designated wildlife migration corridors as "vital," and now the state agency has begun work to update that designation, but the agency's plan to list the areas of high use as candidates for a "no surface occupancy" area, has elicited concerns from the mining and oil and gas industry, as well as the director of the Office of State Lands. The Commission will again take up the designation at its meeting at the end of January.; 11/24/2015

USFS rolls out fire rehab plan for Nez Perce-Clearwater NF in Idaho
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho had nine fires this past wildfire season, the most in any national forest during the season, with 288 square miles burned in those wildfires, and on Monday, the U.S. Forest Service said it would spend more than $1 million to do rehabilitation work on 36.6 miles of trails and 306 projects on 38 Forest Service roads, nearly all of which are focused on preventing erosion damage.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 11/24/2015

Grand Teton NP officials, Wyoming governor meet on Moose-Wilson Road
After a meeting Monday with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and other interested stakeholders about Grand Teton National Park's plan to limit traffic on the 8-mile Moose-Wilson Road in which Mead's advisor asked for more time to provide public comment on the park's preferred alternative, Grand Teton Superintendent David Vela said that he'd published a notice in the Federal Register that extended the public comment period 17 days beyond the original deadline of Dec. 29.; 11/24/2015

Montana FWP wants to double size of Nevada Lake WMA
Public comment will be taken through Dec. 11 on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' proposal to buy 760 acres of land from The Nature Conservancy that will nearly double the size of the Nevada Lake Wildlife Management Area near Helmville. The land would be bought with funding from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, which would be matched by state Habitat Montana dollars, as well as a donation from TNC, and the price would not exceed $598,500.
Missoulian; 11/25/2015


Land, Water Conservation Fund works, and should be restored
There is no reason that the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund failed to be renewed other than Utah U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop's determination to wrest funding away from a successful conservation fund and return some of the money to the very oil and gas companies that pay into the fund. The majority of Americans who support the Land and Water Conservation Fund should tell Congress to get their collective act together and restore funding for this program.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); 11/25/2015

Rep. Lummis's decision to not seek re-election an opportunity for Wyoming
U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who has served as Wyoming's sole member of Congress since 2008, announced that she will not seek re-election, and while her successor should share the commitment she has shown the Cowboy State, there is hope that her successor would be more open to compromise and negotiation to move legislation forward than Lummis, who as a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, known more for what it blocked than what it moved forward.
Casper Star-Tribune; 11/25/2015

BLM leasing plan for Moab evidence that compromise can work
The Bureau of Land Management's Moab Master Leasing Plan isn't final yet, as the agency must consider the public comments submitted and the state of Utah's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office has yet to submit a response, but the MMLP, which will define where potash, oil and gas development can occur, and with more public land use battles brewing in the state, the stakeholders in the Moab plan deserve credit for working together, and perhaps their efforts can be replicated.
Salt Lake Tribune; 11/25/2015


Utah governor regrets signing election overhaul bill
Over the weekend, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told members of the Republican State Central Committee that he believed the bill that overhauled the state's election system would preserve the convention and that's why he signed it, but instead the measure has created a more divisive situation that has spawned a number of lawsuits.
Salt Lake Tribune; 11/24/2015

Hillary Clinton focuses on domestic issues at Colorado events
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was in Colorado on Tuesday, where she spoke about her policies on climate change, immigration and the gun lobby at events in Boulder and Denver.
Denver Post; 11/25/2015


Colorado county officials view Peabody's sale of mine as a positive one
On Friday, Peabody Energy announced that it was selling its Twentymile coal mine in Colorado and its El Segundo and Lee Ranch mines in New Mexico for $358 million to Bowie Resource Partners, which will make the Kentucky-based company the largest bituminous coal producer in the western United States.
Craig Daily Press; 11/24/2015

NEB report: Canada's oil by rail exports increased in 3rd quarter
The National Energy Board released its third-quarter report today that said Canada's oil exports by rail increased from 84,000 barrels per day in the second quarter, the lowest level since 2012, but rebounded the following quarter to 116,000 bpd.
Calgary Herald; 11/25/2015

Company seeking Montana mine permit has new majority owner
Officials of Tintina Resources, the company that is working on an application to operate a copper mine in Montana's Meagher County, said the acquisition of a majority of shares of Tintina's parent company by Australia-based Sandfire Resources NL will not have any effect at all on the company's plan in Montana.
Helena Independent Record; 11/24/2015

N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods to buy Colorado-based Boulder Brands
The producer of Birds Eye frozen vegetables and Duncan Hines cake mixes is buying organic foods producer Boulder Brands based in Colorado for $975 million, with Pinnacle Foods tendering an offer for Boulder Brands' outstanding shares for $11 each, or about $710 million. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016.
Denver Post; 11/24/2015

Beyond the region

Debate on Washington coal ports focus on jobs vs. the environment
Proponents of the two proposed coal export terminals in Washington state cite the jobs the terminals will support, not only in the state but in coal mines in Wyoming and Montana, but opponents said that it's wrong to export the climate effects of burning coal and that trainloads of coal have their own environmental impact.
Bellingham Herald; 11/23/2015

Washington state releases analysis of oil train terminal project
On Tuesday, the Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council released its analysis of the proposed oil train terminal in Vancouver, which would be the largest in the Pacific Northwest, would bring four oil trains a day into the Washington city, with loaded trains following the path of the Columbia River. The analysis also said that most of the fire departments along the trains' route are not prepared to handle a derailment or fire. The analysis forecast that derailments would occur once every two years.
Bellingham Herald; 11/25/2015

New wolf pack brings number in Washington state to 17
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed today that there is a new wolf pack in Washington state near Methow, called the Loup Loup Pack due to its home range the towns of Twisp and Omak.
Seattle Times; 11/24/2015

Analysts: U.S. nears storage capacity for oil, creating 'super cantango'
A discount on oil prices paid for earliest months is known as a cantango, and with oil storage facilities in the United States, analysts are seeing what they called a "super cantango" on oil prices.
Calgary Herald (PDTECHINTEGRATION); 11/24/2015

LA water district buys farmland in California valley to secure water rights
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California became the largest private landowner California's Palo Verde Valley in July, and the municipal water company had good reason for buying 29,000 acres of land used primarily to grow alfalfa: the Palo Verde Valley enjoys the highest right to the state's share of Colorado River water.
Durango Herald (AP); 11/23/2015

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"W e have just not received proposals. It’s tough to get Idaho producers excited about prevention."

Jon Beals, project manager with the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, discussing why the state has paid out just $12,000 of the $108,152 it received in 2013 and 2014 from the federal Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project Grant Program, which helps pay for nonlethal means to keep wolves away from livestock.
- Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley)

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux reviews Kim Heacox's 'Jimmy Bluefeather'


Mountain West Perspectives
Montana's two-year colleges revamp education to meet changing workplace demands


A Look Ahead

Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana