Colstrip owner pushes for tax break to keep plant units open
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana lawmakers say Talen Energy is pushing for a tax reduction to keep two units of the Colstrip power plant open until 2022.
House Speaker Austin Knudsen said Tuesday that two of the four units of the coal-fired power plant could close within a year if the state doesn’t offer some kind of assistance.
However, Knudsen and Republican Sen. Duane Ankney of Colstrip say the $10 million coal severance tax reduction proposed by the company isn’t likely in a tight budget year.
Knudsen and Ankney say lawmakers and company representatives are still in talks. Company representatives did not return calls for comment.
A legal settlement calls for two of Colstrip’s four units to close by July 2022.
Colstrip is the second-largest coal-fired plant in the West and a major economic driver in southeastern Montana.
Former Montana legislator faces federal drug charges
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana lawmaker, who in 2007 supported giving $4 million in state money to the Montana Meth Project, has denied federal charges that allege he possessed and sold just over a pound of methamphetamine last year.
The Billings Gazette reports former House Majority Leader Michael Lange of Billings pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal drug distribution and possession charges. He was booked into jail on Friday and was ordered to remain in custody.
Attorney Ashley Harada reserved the right to request a bail hearing for Lange, who is 56.
Lange served as majority leader during the 2007 session, but House Republicans stripped him of his title at the end of the session. He had been captured on video at a caucus swearing about then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer and negotiations with the Democrat over the budget.
12-year-old leads highway patrol in southern Montana pursuit
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 12-year-old boy is in custody after leading police on a high-speed chase with a loaded gun in his vehicle in southern Montana.
The Billings Gazette reports that the chase began in Billings on Tuesday after a trooper spotted a vehicle driving erratically.
Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Keith Edgell says authorities followed the boy on Interstate 90 until Laurel, where he drove on multiple streets to get away from officers.
Spike strips were deployed three times and the boy’s vehicle lost air in three tires before driving onto a dead-end road and getting stuck near an apartment building.
Officers found a gun in the boy’s vehicle and took him into custody.
Edgell says the vehicle belonged to the boy’s relative who didn’t know the car was missing.
Opening statements heard in 2nd Oregon standoff trial
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Opening statements began in the second trial stemming from last year’s armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.
A jury last fall found standoff leader Ammon Bundy not guilty of conspiring to impede workers during the 41-day protest over federal land policy. Prosecutors are now trying to convict four lesser-known defendants on the same charge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow told jurors Tuesday it’s a simple case, and that a conspiracy does not have to include a formal written agreement. He said there was a meeting of the minds to keep Interior Department employees away, and it was impossible for workers to do their jobs when their desks were occupied by armed men.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Andrew Kohlmetz said a variety of causes led people to the occupation. He said not a single person traveled there to stop people from working.
Hundreds gather at Montana Capitol to protest Daines
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Montana Capitol, where U.S. Sen. Steve Daines was scheduled to address the Legislature.
When crowd learned that the Montana Republican had canceled Tuesday’s appearance, boos and cries of “Coward!” erupted.
Many there objected to Daines gaveling down Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the presiding officer during the debate on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ nomination.
Others were there to urge Daines to oppose President Donald Trump’s plans to restrict refugee arrivals and roll back health care reforms. They also want Daines to call on Trump to divest his business holdings and investigate whether Russia interfered with U.S. elections.
Daines rescheduled his appearance before the state Legislature for Wednesday. His office released a statement saying the senator “welcomes the opinions of everyone from the Treasure State.”
Karla Gray, Montana’s first female chief justice, dies at 69
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Karla Gray, the first female chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court, has died of cancer. She was 69.
Gray’s husband, Myron Currie, tells the Great Falls Tribune (gftrib.com/2m4icvM) that Gray died Sunday at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena.
Gov. Steve Bullock ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday in Gray’s honor. Bullock called her a dedicated public servant and a champion for access to justice. He said her work ethic, humor, humility and sense of justice have served as an inspiration for young lawyers in the state.
Gray was appointed to the Montana Supreme Court in 1991 by Gov. Stan Stephens following the resignation of Diane Barz. She was elected as an associate justice in 1992 and in 1998 and became the first woman elected chief justice in 2000. She retired in 2008.