Changes to be proposed for crime lab command structure
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Changes will be proposed to reorganize the state crime lab that over the course of a just over a year has had three different chief medical examiners vacate their posts.
Crime Lab Administrator Phil Kinsey told Lee Newspapers of Montana that the proposed changes clarify the command structure and give the state examiner hiring and firing ability.
Kinsey said there has been no clear line of who works for whom.
He said the changes should help prevent problems like the ones that led to the high turnover.
Attorney General Tim Fox plans to have the proposals included in a bill at the Legislature.
Missoula Democratic Rep. Kim Dudik is expected to propose the measure.
Blizzard conditions shut down Montana interstate highway
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Blizzard conditions are being reported in Livingston, with visibility reported at less than a quarter of a mile.
The National Weather Service says Interstate 90 has been closed from Park City to Springdale because of dangerous driving conditions.
Authorities urged people to stay home, and warned those who venture out could not only endanger themselves, but others who might have to rescue them.
Agreement reached for mine waste removal in Butte
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Halted efforts to remove mine and mineral processing waste dumped near Butte Civic Center are back in motion under a new agreement between the state and Montana Resources.
The Montana Standard reports about 350,000 cubic yards of waste will be moved behind the mining company’s main office.
Mark Thompson manages environmental affairs at the mine and says a liability issue that held up the project has been resolved.
He said company will be responsible for the waste per the state’s Metal Mine Reclamation Act.
Montana Resources expects to spend $1.2 million on removing the contaminated soil.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said the waste can be left where it is.
Some residents are concerned that heavy metals will contaminate groundwater and nearby Silver Bow Creek.
Lawmakers look to scrap Bullock’s pre-kindergarten proposal
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Montana Senate say they want to scrap Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s plans for a statewide preschool program and use the money instead to make sure highway projects stay on track.
Bullock included in his budget proposal released last month $12 million to launch a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds and $2.4 million for the Best Beginnings Stars to Quality program.
Incoming Senate leaders said Friday they would introduce legislation to redirect that money into the state’s highway fund.
Earlier this month, the state Department of Transportation said it is delaying requests for bids on $144 million in road construction contracts due to a budget shortfall.
Bullock said in a statement that pitting 4-year-olds against highway infrastructure funding is not a constructive way to begin budget talks.
Montana requires oil and gas drilling notifications
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana regulators are requiring oil and gas companies to notify nearby landowners in advance of their drilling plans.
A rule adopted on Wednesday by the state Board of Oil and Gas Conservation requires that notification be given to owners of all occupied structures within one-quarter mile of a proposed oil or gas well.
The owners could request within 14 days that a hearing be held on the proposal.
Drilling permits will not be issued until notification occurs.
Occupied structures include houses, schools, offices or hospitals. It does not include barns, sheds or garages.
The requirement was adopted on a 4-3 vote.
It had been pushed by members of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation group based in Billings.
Trial set for Wyoming man accused in Montana double killing
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has set a Jan. 9 trial date for a Wyoming man accused in the slaying of a couple on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation.
The Billings Gazette reports that U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set the trial date for 19-year-old Jesus Deniz Mendoza, of Worland, in an order filed on Thursday.
Mendoza is charged with double murder, attempted murder and other counts in the July 2015 deaths of Jason and Tana Shane near Pryor.
Authorities say the couple stopped to help Mendoza when he shot them, killing both and wounding their daughter.
Mendoza’s attorneys have said he will rely on an insanity defense if the case goes to trial.