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Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Thursday, March 26, 2015
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map Mountain West News is asking our readers to please donate what they believe our regional news aggregation service is worth to them.

We've been tracking trends and issues affecting the region since 1999.

Each weekday, we deliver a snapshot of what's happening in the region.

An important aspect of what we do is track the relationship between the federal government, the states in the region and the local governments within those states.

Today's news is reflective of those relationships, with Wyoming among the states challenging the federal government's new regulations on mercury, and coal miners saying changes to the federal coal royalty structure are just another step in the Obama administration's war on coal.

In Idaho, Bonner County Commissioners asked Congress to protect the Scotchman Peaks mountains as wilderness, but made it clear they don't support other such designations in the state.

Also in Idaho, the state Legislature weighed into Boise's attempt to regulate the ride-sharing service Uber by passing legislation that allows Uber to set its own rules for operation in the state.

We ask for your support to help us keep you abreast of what's happening in the region, how what happens in Washington, D.C. affects the region, and how local entities interact with both state and federal agencies.

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Rockies today

U.S. Supreme Court hears challenge of EPA's mercury regulations
Wyoming is among the 21 states that filed challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's plan to further reduce mercury and other emissions from coal-fired power plants, and on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); March 25

Obama administration proposes increase in grazing fees
High Country News examines the grazing fee increase proposed by the Obama administration, why the increase is unlikely to pass and how the fees are split among federal lands agencies and states.
High Country News; March 26

Coal miners: Federal change to royalties another step in war on coal
The Interior Department wants to assess royalties on coal pulled from federal lands when the coal is sold by the miner to an unaffiliated company, rather than the first sale of the coal, as there have been concerns that companies are selling the coal to affiliated companies for a lower price, and then those companies sell it for a much higher price, but coal mining companies call the proposed change just another step in the Obama administration's ongoing campaign against coal.
Bloomberg Business; March 26

Colorado peaks around Aspen free of dust for first time in a decade
The Silverton-based Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies has been tracking dust on snowpack at 11 sites in Colorado since 2005, and for the first March in a decade, the snowpack at those sites isn't coated with a layer of dust.
Aspen Times; March 26

Wyoming coal miner: Delay on Washington port won't curb exports
SSA Marine, the developer of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, a proposed coal export port on the coast of Washington state, submitted a new design of the project to lessen the effect on wetlands, a decision that will delay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' review of the project by a year. Wyoming coal producers support the terminal as a way for them to tap overseas market to offset losses caused by a decline in domestic coal use, but Cloud Peak Energy officials said the year delay on the Gateway Pacific project won't affect them, as the company is using a port in British Columbia to export its coal.
Casper Star-Tribune; March 25

Colorado U.S. representatives seek permanent funding for PILT
All seven of Colorado's U.S. representatives signed off on a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi requesting that the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates counties that lose property tax revenue due to tax exempt federal lands within their borders, be fully funded in fiscal year 2016 and that a permanent, sustainable solution for the program be found.
Durango Herald; March 26

Idaho Senate send Uber bill to governor's desk
After Boise and the ride-hailing service, Uber, could not come to terms on operating in the Idaho city, Uber withdrew, but state legislators rode to the rescue, and on Wednesday, the Senate sent a bill that will allow Uber to operate on its own terms in the state to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.
Idaho Statesman (AP); March 26

Pheasants Forever hire gardener to grow habitat in W. Montana
Members of the Mission Valley, Five Valleys and Flathead Valley chapters of Pheasants Forever are providing funding to hire a gardener to plant habitat suitable for "ditch parrots" on public lands in western Montana between the National Bison Range and Flathead Lake.
Missoulian; March 26

Bonner County Commission seeks wilderness designation for Idaho peak
On Tuesday, the Bonner County Commission formally adopted a resolution asking Congress to designate northern Idaho's Scotchman Peaks mountains a wilderness area. The commissioners aren't generally supportive of wilderness designations but said they do support such a designation for the highest point in their Idaho county.
Idaho Statesman (Bonner County Daily Bee); March 26


Montana's Capital City explores new option for wastewater discharge
In a little more than two years, Helena's wastewater treatment plant will have to renew its discharge permit, and with more stringent restrictions on discharge water anticipated, officials of the Montana city are already working on options other than the current one, which allows discharge of treated wastewater into Prickly Pear Creek.
Helena Independent Record; March 26


Montana's federal lawmakers should support NPS's budget request
Given the economic benefits provided to Montana by Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, the state's federal delegation, Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, along with Rep. Ryan Zinke, should wholeheartedly support President Obama's budget request for $11.49 billion for the National Park Service to address the backlog of deferred maintenance projects, which contains $178.5 million to Glacier National Park and $686.5 million to Yellowstone National Park.
Missoulian; March 25

Beyond the region

Arctic sea ice hits peak early, at lowest level since 1978
Ice on the Arctic Ocean hit peak coverage on Feb. 25, a couple of weeks early, this year, and scientists said the maximum coverage of the ice was the lowest reported since 1978.
New York Times; March 26

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T he message we're trying to send is Scotchman Peaks is the exception to the rule."

Bonner County Commission Chairman Cary Kelly, about the Commission's resolution asking Congress to designate northern Idaho's Scotchman Peaks a wilderness area, and only that area of Idaho.
- Idaho Statesman (Bonner County Daily Bee)

On The Bookshelf

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


A Look Ahead
Western Governors Association's Drought ForumRegister now for these webinars:

    April 8: “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Why Variation in Hydrology and Legal Structures means that Drought Looks Different across the West”

April 1-May 1: Water in the American West, a free, online college level course, offered by The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado. Register now.

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