The Latest: Large Montana coal plant to close 2 units
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A large Montana coal plant serving utility customers across the Pacific Northwest has agreed to shut down two of its four units and limit how much it pollutes in the meantime under a deal with environmentalists.
A consent decree detailing the partial shutdown of the 2,100-megawatt Colstrip plant by 2022 was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Montana. It needs approval from federal officials before becoming final.
The move follows a wave of coal plant closures that have transformed the utility industry in the United States.
The Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Center sued Colstrip’s owners in 2013 over alleged air pollution violations.
The plant employs about 360 people. Co-owner Puget Sound Energy says most of those jobs likely will be retained as Colstrip’s two other units continue operating.
APNewsBreak: Slow progress seen on faulty rail cars
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. safety officials say they’ve seen slow progress in efforts to upgrade or replace tens of thousands of rupture-prone rail cars used to transport oil and ethanol, despite a string of fiery derailments.
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told The Associated Press on Tuesday that federal regulators need to set milestones to hold the industry accountable for getting unsafe cars off the tracks.
Figures provided by the Association of American Railroads indicate just over 10,000 stronger tank cars are available for service.
That’s equivalent to roughly one-fifth of the 51,500 tank cars used to haul crude and ethanol during the first quarter of 2016. The NTSB says all of the older cars are prone to rupture.
Tom Simpson with the Railway Supply Institute says the industry is committed to putting stronger cars in place but demand has eased as shipments have decreased with lower oil prices.
Hail damage claims on the rise for crop insurance program
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — State officials say damage claims for Montana crops due to hail are nearly double what they’ve been in recent years.
The Billings Gazette reports the state Department of Agriculture’s Walt Anseth says farmers submitted 200 insurance claims from January to May. Claims from June haven’t yet been counted, but officials usually receive only about 100 claims through early July.
Federal data shows Montana has had 266 reports of hail at least three-quarters of an inch in size this year. That’s a little more than the 20-year average of 263 reports of hail that size a year.
Anseth says the department’s hail program will cover the claims.
The program had provided refunds to farmers for years up until 2013, when storms in central Montana and the Hi-Line raised claims.
Wildlife advocates to sue for Yellowstone bison protections
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife advocates say they’ll sue in an attempt to force the U.S. government to designate Yellowstone National Park bison as a threatened or endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January rejected two petitions to grant federal protections to the roughly 4,900 Yellowstone bison. Officials said then the herd’s population was stable.
Western Watersheds Project, Buffalo Field Campaign and Friends of Animals on Monday filed a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Interior over that decision.
The groups say federal officials did not consider how dramatically the animals’ range has been reduced or how the continued hunting and slaughter of bison threaten their existence.
Millions of bison once roamed the Great Plains, but the Yellowstone population is the largest remaining wild population.
Police arrest man involved in fatal crash in Lakewood
DENVER (AP) — Police have arrested a man who was involved in a crash in Lakewood that killed a 56-year-old woman.
The Denver Post reports 24-year-old Curtis Blodgett was arrested Sunday night for investigation of vehicular homicide and driving while impaired.
Investigators say he slammed into a car stopped on a shoulder of U.S. Highway 6 on Sunday, killing Jana Elliott, of Wolf Point, Montana.
Elliott was killed shortly after she helped retrieve a bicycle that had fallen from a third car onto the highway. She was buckled into the passenger seat of the car that was hit.
Investigators say Blodgett acknowledged smoking marijuana that day, and Lakewood police also discovered a small amount of the drug in the car.
Booking documents do not indicate if he has hired an attorney.
December trial set in Miles City homicide
MILES CITY, Mont. (AP) — A trial is scheduled in December for a man charged with killing his former landlord in Miles City.
The Miles City Star reports Scott Austin Price appeared before District Judge Michael Hayworth on Monday via video from the Missoula County jail, where he is being held pending a separate homicide trial.
Price is charged with killing Ed Martin and attacking Martin’s wife on Dec. 14, 2015. He is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, intimidation and theft.
Hayworth scheduled Price’s trial to start on Dec. 12.
Price also is charged with attacking a woman in a grocery store parking lot and fatally stabbing another in Missoula on Dec. 21 as part of a meth fueled, cross-state crime spree. His trial in the death of Lonette Keehner is scheduled to start on Oct. 3 in Missoula.