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Week in Review

Top stories from Oct. 13 thru 17:

In News to track, a couple of stories about natural gas--the fuel that's been touted as a bridge to a cleaner energy future.  A new report from an international panel of five scientists who did independent analyses of the surge in natural gas use,  found that the overall effect of expanded use of natural gas may not reduce greenhouse gases between 2 and 11 percent by 2050 as predicted. The scientists said methane emissions from natural gas operations may increase greenhouse gas emissions, as could an overall increase in power consumption driven by the cheaper fuel.

And in Canada, where TransCanada is working on a plan to reverse the flow of the EnergyEast pipeline, which now ships natural gas west from Quebec, and use the pipeline to move Alberta crude east to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick

The company is working on its application for the project to be submitted to the National Energy Board within the next few weeks, and Quebec's largest producer of natural gas, is urging the province to oppose TransCanada's proposal.

We posted a new Mountain West Perspective this week on Montana's draft statewide water plan, a timely offering given the decrease in water resources in areas of the West at a time of increasing demand.
Mountain West Perspective

Montana releases draft statewide water management plan
Oct. 16, 2014

  • Scarcity of water in U.S. moves nation closer to price, market solutions
    Two reports to be released this week underscore the importance of putting a price on water Americans use, and with farmers in the U.S. using 80 percent of the nation's water and paying very little for the increasingly scarce resource, putting a system in place that encourages conservation and using best irrigation practices is imperative.
    New York Times; 10/15/2014

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux provides a preview of titles from HumanitiesMontana's 15th Festival of the Book
Oct. 1, 2014

Mountain West Voices

We invite readers to listen to Mountain West Voices, a radio program that profiles an individual or community in the Rocky Mountain West, introducing listeners to the compelling stories that are part of the human landscape of our region.

Yellowstone Public Radio will broadcast Mountain West Voices at 7:05 a.m. on Sunday.

Sunday's program features the story of George Nickel, who survived the roadside bomb that killed his comrades in Iraq.

Back home in Boise, Idaho, his readjustment to civilian life was a disaster. An armed standoff with Boise police led to jail, and almost a year of solitary confinement.

Now George's life is dedicated to helping other combat veterans make the difficult transition to civilian life.

Tune in to Yellowstone Public Radio at 7:05 Sunday morning, or listen to the program via the Mountain West Voices website.

News to track

Report questions natural gas as bridge to clean energy
Natural gas has long been touted as the "bridge" fuel to a cleaner energy fuel, but a report from an international panel of scientists from the United States, Germany, Austria, Italy and Australia who analyzed the effects of the natural gas boom, questioned that assumption, given that the over-supply of the cleaner burning fuel could leave to more power consumption; the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when the switch is made from coal to natural gas is somewhere between 2 and 11 percent; and the effects of methane escaping from drilling operations.
Calgary Herald (Postmedia News); 10/16/2014

Canadian producer objects to TransCanada's EnergyEast conversion plan
TransCanada Corp. wants to convert the EnergyEast natural gas pipeline to carry oil east from Alberta to Quebec, but Gaz Metro, Quebec's largest natural gas distributor, is asking the province to join it in objecting to the $12-billion project because it will adversely affect natural gas supplies and the economy of the eastern province.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); 10/17/2014


Xcel Energy says better wind, solar forecasts saved $40 million
The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder won the Colorado Governor's Award for High-Impact Research in Sustainability for the development of better computer forecasting models that Xcel Energy said had saved its customers in eight states $40 million over the past four years by providing the utility a better understanding of when and how much power to expect from wind and solar installations.
Denver Post; 10/15/2014

  • Wind energy conference in Colorado highlights successes, challenges
    At a recent American Wind Energy Association conference in Colorado, industry representatives celebrated the fact that wind farms in the Centennial State have 3,800 megawatts of generating capacity and that wind farms have supplied more than 50 percent of the electricity on Xcel Energy's power grid in the state a number of times, but representatives also said transmission capacity continues to be an issue as does the number of eagle deaths caused by wind turbines.; 10/13/2014

Environmental certificate on billion-dollar B.C. ski resort expires
The 10-year certificate issued by British Columbia Environment for the $1-billion Jumbo Glacier resort near Invermere expired at midnight on Sunday, putting the project in limbo as the province reviews what's been done in the past 10 years to determine if the resort has "substantially started" construction.
Calgary Herald; 10/15/2014

Pilot project in Colorado tackles food deserts in NE Denver
Food deserts are defined as areas where residents do not have local access to healthy foods, and the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, a pilot project launched in northeast Denver, is helping owners of small stores provide more healthy fare, and so far five of the 50 planned makeovers have been done or are in the process of being completed.
Denver Post; 10/14/2014

Lakewood OKS measure challenging Colorado's construction-defects law
In 2005, the Colorado Legislature passed a law that makes it easy for homeowners to sue companies for construction defects, a move contractors said is to blame for the dearth of condominiums in communities where such housing is in demand, and on Monday night, after hours of heated debate, the Lakewood City Council passed a measure that softens the state law a bit by giving builders and developers a chance to fix any defects before litigation can be filed and requires a majority of members of a homeowners association, rather than just a majority of a homeowners association's board, approve litigation before any lawsuit is filed.
Denver Post; 10/14/2014

Englewood is Google's Colorado eCity for 2014
Google's eCity List for 2014, which selects one city in each of the 50 states for online market presence, social networking and other criteria, includes Englewood, Colo., home to Dish Network and cable company Liberty Global, and the Front Range Ski Bus, which shuttles skiers to area resorts. Other cities in the West on the list are: Hayden, Idaho; Missoula, Mont., Midvale, Utah; and Cheyenne, Wyo.
Denver Post; 10/17/2014


Groups help USGS gather data for baseline assessment of Idaho river
To help determine if population growth in Idaho's Blaine County is affecting the Big Wood River, Trout Unlimited, Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have provided help and funding to the U.S. Geological Survey to collect water, invertebrates and algae samples from the river, which will be added to the samples collected by Idaho Fish and Game, to help develop a baseline assessment on the river's health.
Twin Falls Times-News; 10/16/2014

Montana panel grants Whitefish's request for non-motorized use of river
A 3-mile stretch of the Whitefish River will be closed to motorized access after the Montana Fish and Game Commission granted the City of Whitefish's request to do so.
Flathead Beacon; 10/17/2014

USFS chief defends directive on groundwater
At a global forest science conference in Salt Lake City last week, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell again defended his agency proposal to analyze the effect a special permit use would have on groundwater, saying that the rule would be another way to protect the resource, but the Western Governors' Association, the farm bureau and states' water right managers are all calling the policy an overstep of authority.
Deseret News; 10/13/2014

Colorado closes the books on its mixed water year
Areas of Colorado this year compared to Dust Bowl years in terms of drought, but late summer rains helped the southern tier a bit, while the northern part of the state had an ordinary year, but the late rains pushed it to extraordinary.
Durango Herald (Rocky Mountain PBS I-News); 10/13/2014

Erie joins other Front Range cities in Colorado, builds water storage tank
The $3.8-million water tank Erie is in the process of building will add 4 million gallons of potable water storage capacity for the Front Range community in Colorado.
Denver Post; 10/13/2014

BLM roundup gathers hundreds more horses in Wyoming than estimated
The Bureau of Land Management had estimated that 950 wild horses would be gathered from an area of Wyoming where federal lands are interspersed with private lands, but at the end of the roundup, 1,263 horses from the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas were rounded up.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 10/15/2014

Interior Sec'y announces new pacts to protect sage grouse in Wyoming
On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Wyoming and praised the ongoing work to protect sagebrush habitat and the sage grouse in the state, and she also announced agreements with nine ranchers in the Cowboy State formalizing voluntary efforts to protect sage grouse habitat.
Casper Star-Tribune; 10/16/2014

  • Interior Secretary Jewell gets on-the-ground look at Idaho sagebrush lands
    On Tuesday, Idaho U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch accompanied Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, as well as 50 other participants, on a tour of sagebrush lands that included review of maps showing the loss of sage grouse habitat since 2000, as wildfires become more frequent.
    Flathead Beacon (AP); 10/15/2014

Study finds brucellosis vaccine not effective in Wyoming elk populations
Wyoming has been vaccinating elk with Strain 19 vaccine to ward off brucellosis for more than 29 years, and a new study found no significant benefit from the vaccinations, but state game officials said the vaccination program will continue this year and next.; 10/14/2014

USFWS now estimates hunters in Grand Teton NP will kill more grizzlies
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that hunters would kill only one grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park in 15 years, and that no grizzlies would be killed by hunters on the National Elk Refuge in that 15-years span, but federal biologists have changed those estimates upward to indicate that six more grizzlies would be killed by hunters by 2022.; 10/14/2014

Groups sue USFWS in federal court in Montana over wolverine decision
Eight wildlife advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Missoula on Monday, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to not protect wolverines despite scientific evidence that climate change presents a real threat to the snow-loving mammal.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 10/14/2014

Tough year for wildlife in Canada's mountain parks
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 6, 10 black bears and one grizzly bear were struck and killed by vehicles or trains in Yoho and Kootenay national parks in B.C. and Banff National Park in Alberta; 16 elk have died on the parks' roads, as have five moose, three wolves and one cougar. The reporter provides more information on the loss of wildlife in these parks in her blog.
Calgary Herald; 10/14/2014

Montana wildlife panel keeps ban on shipping bighorn sheep out of state
Staff with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency recommended that the state lift the ban on shipping bighorn sheep to other states as a method of dealing with overpopulation that make sheep prone to disease, but the state Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to keep the ban in place to spur efforts to find suitable habitat for new herds to be established within the state.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 10/17/2014

  • Bighorn sheep with new type of pneumonia sent to S.D. university
    Idaho and Washington state wildlife officers captured eight bighorn ewes from a herd near the mouth of the Grand Ronde River believed to have a new type of pneumonia that is killing adult sheep as well as lambs, and sent the ewes to South Dakota State University where researchers are studying pneumonia.
    Idaho Statesman (AP); 10/14/2014

Public Lands
Jewell: If Congress doesn't pass wilderness bills, White House will act
During her speech at a New Mexico event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that Congress should work to pass the dozens of bipartisan bills dealing with wilderness currently pending, or the administration could act on its own.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); 10/17/2014

  • President Obama officially designates new national monument in California
    On Friday, President Obama officially dedicated 346,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains in California as a national monument on Friday, the 13th time he has used his executive power under the Antiquities Act, and bringing total number of acres of land and water protected to 260 million acres.
    Los Angeles Times; 10/10/2014

Idahoans tell legislative committee to leave federal lands in federal hands
At the Idaho Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee's hearing in Twin Falls on Friday, most of the people in attendance said federal lands should remain so, while a few spoke in favor of privatizing those lands or putting them under state control.
Twin Falls Times-News; 10/13/2014

Groups say Idaho grazing decision will translate to other states
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill's decision on grazing leases in Idaho contained a decision that said the Bureau of Land Management's use of a congressional budget rider to issue new grazing permits in that state without an environmental analysis was illegal, a ruling environmental groups seized on for use in other states.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 10/13/2014

Idaho auctions off energy leases on 5,260 acres of state lands
On Wednesday, the Idaho Department of State Lands auctioned off oil and gas leases on 5,260 acres of state lands, primarily in Owyhee County, with smaller parcels in Cassia County and Gem County, bringing the total acres of state lands under lease for oil and gas development to 98,000.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 10/17/2014


Utah Republicans right to take on poverty
Utah lawmakers, at both the state and federal level, are recognizing the intergenerational aspect of poverty, and that addressing some of the issues that keep people, and particularly children, trapped in poverty makes financial sense--not to mention it may save lives as well.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/13/2014

Canadian, U.S. oil producers mull next year's plans as prices hit $80
An increase in global oil production and a decline in demand has sent oil prices down to $80 a barrel today, and one market analyst predicted that the current price would slow production in U.S. shale plays, but would not greatly affect Canadian oilsands operations. A column by Stephen Ewart.
Calgary Herald; 10/15/2014

Legislators could take a small step, make a big difference in Utah's air
With nearly half the air pollution problems along Utah's Wasatch Front fueled by vehicle emissions, it makes sense to offer the five refineries operating there some incentive to produce the cleaner Tier III gasoline in Utah and in advance of the federal deadline of 2020.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/17/2014

Idaho schools need a little less political grandstanding and a lot more funding
Despite all the rhetoric about school funding being tossed about in Idaho these days, the truth is the state's education budget is $100 million less than it was in 2009, when it peaked, with 22,000 more students enrolled in public schools than in 2007; our per-pupil spending is dead last in the union, our literacy rates and the ability of high school graduates in the state to pass introductory college-level courses are an embarrassment, and it's going to take a concerted effort and a good deal of funding to make education the priority it should be.
Twin Falls Times-News; 10/17/2014


Montana panel votes to send Yellowstone bison to Fort Peck Reservation
At its meeting on Thursday, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to send all 145 genetically pure bison from Yellowstone National Park that had been held on Ted Turner's ranch under a five-year agreement that expires next month to the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, rather than parcel them out to various groups around the nation.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 10/17/2014


Dozens of gay couples get marriage licenses in Idaho Wednesday
As soon as the stay issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Idaho, dozens of same-sex couples lined up to get marriage licenses in the Treasure Valley.
Idaho Statesman; 10/16/2014

Ballots mailed for Colorado's first-ever, mail-only election
The ballots in Colorado's first ever mail-only election were put in the mail on Tuesday, and the La Plata County clerk and recorder said she's hoping for an 80 percent turnout this election.
Durango Herald; 10/15/2014

Citizens United wins appeal on Colorado documentary
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the documentary, "Rocky Mountain Heist," filmed by Citizens United detailing the liberal takeover of Colorado can be shown without detailing donors; the Colorado secretary of state's office has not yet decided if the decision will be appealed.
Denver Post; 10/15/2014

GOP candidate in Utah U.S. House race sets campaign-fund record
Mia Love, the Republican candidate in the race for Utah's 4th Congressional House District, raised a record $1.47 million in the past three months, while her Democratic opponent, Doug Owens, raised $294,700.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/17/2014


Audit highlights concerns about Utah's tax-incentive jobs program
Utah State Auditor John Dougall, who has long been a critic of the Governors Office of Economic Development's program that has provided $600 million in tax incentives to companies over the past eight years, urged legislators to carefully review the audit of that program that indicates the GOED lowered the eligibility requirements for companies seeking incentives, allowed companies to exclude lower-wage workers when computing average annual pay and allowed the inclusion of contractors and current employees in job counts to qualify them for tax breaks.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/15/2014

Utah legislators get update from lobbyist on sage grouse work
On Thursday, Ryan Benson, the private contractor hired to work to ensure the federal government does not list the sage grouse as an endangered species, told members of the Natural Resources interim committee that he was making progress, although his 11-page report provided very little detail on actual work he has done on the $2-million, one-year contract.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/17/2014


Colorado oil producers aren't dismayed by falling oil prices
The continued decline in oil prices around the world hasn't affected producers' plan in Colorado, where one analyst said Thursday's price of $82.75 per barrel was well above the roughly estimated $65-a-barrel break-even point for shale oil.
Denver Post; 10/17/2014

A flood of applications for drilling permits filed in Wyoming county
In September, 484 applications for drilling permits were filed in Wyoming's Laramie County, a record for that county, and in the past two weeks, a Houston company has filed 200 such applications in the Wyoming county, giving EOG Resources Inc. the right to operate the well when it is drilled.
Casper Star-Tribune; 10/15/2014

New FedEx Ground hub opens in Montana
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday in Billings for the new FedEx Ground hub that employs 120 workers.
Billings Gazette; 10/16/2014

Spirit Airlines adds 7th direct flight out of Denver International Airport
Ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines landed at Denver International Airport in 2012, and on Thursday, the airline announced it would add a direct flight between the Colorado airport and San Diego beginning in early January.
Denver Post; 10/17/2014

Ski season in Colorado kicks off Friday at Arapahoe Basin
Mother Nature has provided a foot of snow over the past few weeks at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, and snow-making operations have added enough of the white stuff to enable the ski resort to open the High Noon Trail.
Denver Post; 10/16/2014

Exporters of Idaho agricultural products deal with new railroad surcharge
On Oct. 1, Union Pacific, the only railroad that provides Idaho's agricultural producers a route to western ports, put a surcharge in place on 20-foot containers that exceed 22 tons and exceed 26 tons for 40- or 45-foot containers.
Twin Falls Times-News; 10/15/2014

Beyond the region

NRC report reignites debate on storing nuclear waste in Nevada
The long-delayed report released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday found that the design of a nuclear waste repository proposed for Yucca Mountain in Nevada had the necessary barriers to ensure long-term sequestration of the material, immediately sparking demands from Republican federal lawmakers that the project be revived, and with the U.S. Senate leadership in play in November, that may happen.
New York Times; 10/17/2014

Texas company to capture, reuse carbon from cement plant emissions
Austin-based Skyonic Corporation will open its $125-million factory next to the Capitol Aggregates cement plant in Texas near San Antonio that will capture 83,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually and use that CO2 to make chemicals like sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid by reacting it with rock salt.
New York Times; 10/17/2014

Company plans to turn natural gas into plastic in North Dakota
On Monday, Badlands NGL CEO William Gilliam, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Sen. John Hoeven announced that the company, which soon plans to open headquarters in Denver, will build a $4-billion plant in Bismarck to turn natural gas liquids into polyethylene beads that can be used for such things as plastic pipe, with plans to have the plant up and running by 2017.
Denver Post (AP); 10/14/2014

North Dakota reports record oil production in August
The North Dakota Industrial Commission reported Wednesday that a record 35 million barrels of oil were produced in August, and that the Bakken oil formation reached a benchmark of 1 billion barrels of oil produced that month.
Missoulian (AP); 10/17/2014

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T here are dozens of bills in Congress, and they need to be passed — dozens of bipartisan bills, bills with wide support, broad support — but no one has the courage to pass them. We need to encourage this Congress to get on with it and to move forward. Otherwise, we will take action."

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, speaking at an event in New Mexico celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and decrying the lack of progress on new such legislation in Congress.
- Salt Lake Tribune (AP)

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux provides a preview of titles from HumanitiesMontana 15th Festival of the Book


Mountain West Perspectives
Montana releases draft statewide water management plan


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