Judge demands explanation for lengthy delay on energy lease
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge is pressing U.S. officials to explain why it’s taken three decades to decide on a proposal to drill for natural gas outside Glacier National Park in an area considered sacred by some Indian tribes in Montana and Canada.
A frustrated U.S. District Judge Richard Leon called the delay a “nightmare” during a recent hearing in Washington, D.C. He ordered the Interior and Agriculture departments to report back to him with any other example of where they have “dragged their feet” for so long.
At issue is a 6,200-acre energy lease in northwest Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine area. The lease owned by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been suspended since the 1990s.
Solenex sued to overturn the suspension and wants to begin drilling this summer.
Summer roundup approved for horse range in Pryor Mountains
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal land managers have approved a summer roundup at Montana’s Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range to curb the size of its mustang herd.
The Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that it plans to remove 20 horses in 2015 and 6-12 horses annually in future years to reduce the size of the 170-animal herd.
The horses would be put up for adoption.
The Pryor herd is believed to be descended from horses used by Spanish Conquistadors. Roundups to reduce the herd take place periodically, with 700 horses removed since 1971.
The last took place in 2012, when 38 horses and six foals were removed to prevent overgrazing and other damage to the range.
The horse range established in 1968 includes 38,000 acres of public land near the Wyoming-Montana boarder.
Daines seeks hearing on pipeline safety agency
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is calling for a congressional hearing on the government’s pipeline safety agency following two oil spills into Montana’s Yellowstone River in the past five years.
The Montana Republican requested the hearing into the actions of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in a Tuesday letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune of South Dakota.
Daines said he wants to examine how effectively the agency is overseeing and enforcing pipeline rules.
An Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline spilled 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone near Laurel in 2011. Federal regulators issued a $1 million penalty in the case.
In January, a Bridger Pipeline LLC line released 30,000 gallons of oil into the river, temporarily fouling water supplies for 6,000 people downstream in Glendive.
Producer: Cowboy film is real, but investor pitch was not
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man investors say is raising money for a fake documentary insists the film is real, but some promises he made are not.
Montana officials are investigating Matthew McClintock, who is on probation for a separate 2010 money-raising scam. A Helena judge has ordered him to stop raising money for his cowboy documentary until a hearing in August.
One investor, Missoula businessman Jim Rather, says he pledged $2,500 after McClintock’s pitch, which included Clint Eastwood narrating the film’s opening.
McClintock said Tuesday he plans to finish the film, though some of the things he said are not true.
He says he never spoke with Eastwood, though stress-induced cognitive difficulties made him believe he had. He says he is being treated at the Veterans Affairs hospital at Fort Harrison.
Environmental groups sue over proposed NW Montana mine
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Three environmental groups are suing the U.S. government over a proposed copper and silver mine in northwestern Montana.
Save Our Cabinets, Earthworks and Defenders of Wildlife say the Montanore mining project near Libby would harm threatened bull trout and grizzly bears.
The groups are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which determined last year that the project would not jeopardize the species’ survival and recovery.
They are asking a federal judge to rule the agency violated the Endangered Species Act.
The proposed mine holds an estimated 1.7 billion pounds of copper and 230 million ounces of silver beneath an area that includes the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
It has received preliminary approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
Longtime Great Falls radio announcer Dave Wilson dies
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Longtime Great Falls radio broadcaster Dave Wilson has died at age 75.
His wife, Cheryl Wilson, says he died Sunday morning in a Great Falls hospital of complications related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dave Wilson’s 40-year broadcasting career began in 1969 at Great Falls’ KMON-AM. In 1972, he started the program “Grass Roots Gold,” which is still on the air.
Cherry Creek Radio operations manager Skip Walters tells KFBB-TV Wilson was a great storyteller and his voice connected with the Great Falls community.
Wilson was born in Hamilton, Alabama, and moved to Montana in 1968.
He retired from radio in 2009 but continued to broadcast online at davewilsoncountry.com.
Services will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Great Falls’ First United Methodist Church.
Feds say 9 took more than $550K from programs for needy
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say nine people in Montana have been convicted in an operation that uncovered more than $550,000 fraudulent payments from Social Security, Medicaid and two programs for the needy.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana said in a statement Wednesday that all nine provided false information or misrepresentations on documents for federal Supplemental Security Income.
Prosecutors say the defendants’ misrepresentations included whether they are married, how many people are in their households and how much money they make.
The defendants have been ordered to pay back the money they received.
Prosecutors say they found more than $410,000 in Social Security fraud and more than $107,000 in Medicaid fraud. They also found $34,500 taken fraudulently from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Belgrade man found in car died of carbon monoxide poisoning
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a Belgrade man whose body was found in a burning car earlier this month died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Belgrade Police Department said Wednesday that the June 2 death has been ruled a suicide. The conclusion was based on findings from the Gallatin County Coroner’s Office and the Office of the State Medical Examiner.
Firefighters found the body of 43-year-old Christopher Laxon in the driver’s seat of a burning car in Belgrade.
Police and fire investigators concluded the fire was caused by a mechanical problem with the vehicle and started after Laxon died.
Appeal denied for woman convicted of attempted homicide
(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A woman convicted in 2013 of breaking into her former tenant’s home and shooting him won’t be able to give a mental health defense to a jury in an appeal denied by the Montana Supreme Court.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports defense attorney Chuck Watson argued the judge made a mistake by not including a mental disease or defect option on the verdict form given to jurors.
The jury convicted 60-year-old Diana Arnold after an eight-day trial in 2013 and is serving a 100-year sentence for breaking into Henry “Dave” McDunn’s home and shooting him when he arrived.
The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the appeal. Justice Laurie McKinnon said jurors were fairly instructed about the law and what constitutes a mental disease.
Woman, 39, killed in crash with tractor-trailer in Fairfield
(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a woman was killed when she crashed her car into a tractor-trailer in Fairfield.
The Montana Highway Patrol says the 39-year-old Fairfield woman, whose name has not been released, was driving on U.S. Highway 89 on Wednesday afternoon when she crossed the center line and hit the oncoming truck.
The Great Falls Tribune reports the woman was not wearing a seat belt. The 24-year-old truck driver from Fairfield was not injured.
Investigators say road conditions were clear, and it’s unclear if alcohol or speed played a role in the crash.
21-year-old man hit, killed by car while riding ATV in Cody
(Information in the following story is from: The Cody Enterprise, http://www.codyenterprise.com)
CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Authorities say a man was killed when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding was hit by a car in Cody.
The Cody Enterprise reports 21-year-old Spencer Boone died of brain trauma at a Billings, Montana, hospital on Tuesday. Police say the 20-year-old driver of the car failed to yield the right-of-way at an intersection Monday and hit Boone on his four-wheeler.
Boone was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
His mother, Jacque Boone, says “my son never met a stranger. He was the most giving person I ever met. He loved helping his friends.”
Spokane mayor calls for Dolezal to resign from police panel
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Two top Spokane officials have called for Rachel Dolezal to resign immediately from the eastern Washington city’s volunteer police ombudsman commission.
Dolezal stepped down this week as president of the local NAACP chapter after her parents said she was a white woman who had been posing as black.
Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart said Wednesday that Dolezal and two others should remove themselves from the five-member commission after an independent investigation found they had acted improperly and violated government rules.
The report says the evidence and interviews confirm workplace harassment allegations and “a pattern of misconduct” by Dolezal, the chairwoman, and commissioners Kevin Berkompas and Adrian Dominguez.
The city hired lawyers in May to investigate whistleblower and workplace harassment complaints.