Man dead in officer-involved shooting in Butte
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A 36-year-old man has died in an officer-involved shooting in Butte.
Sheriff Ed Lester says Peter Grandpre pulled a gun on an officer who responded to a reported domestic disturbance early Thursday. The officer shot Grandpre, causing fatal injuries.
Lester tells The Montana Standard the officer was wearing a body camera and after watching the video, he has no doubt Grandpre was trying to kill the officer.
Grandpre’s wife called police shortly before 2 a.m. to report her husband had been drinking, they were arguing and he had two handguns and a rifle. Two children, ages 4 and 6, also were in the house.
Lester says when officers arrived Grandpre opened the front door, then pulled a .45-caliber handgun on the officer.
The officer, who was not injured, was placed on paid administrative leave.
Judge to penalize lawmaker who took illegal contributions
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A state judge is expected to decide whether to remove a Bozeman legislator from office for taking illegal corporate campaign contributions.
District Judge Ray Dayton plans to decide the penalties for Republican Rep. Art Wittich during a court hearing in Anaconda on Friday.
In April, a jury found that Wittich took nearly $20,000 in illegal contributions from groups affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee during his 2010 primary election campaign.
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl is asking Dayton to remove Wittich from his final months in office and to order the legislator to pay $144,900 in damages.
Wittich lost his re-election bid in the June 7 primary elections. His attorneys argue that Wittich can’t be removed from his current House seat for wrongdoing in the 2010 election for a Senate seat.
NorthWestern allowed to negotiate solar power contracts
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State regulators are allowing NorthWestern Energy to negotiate contracts with companies that propose building solar energy projects in Montana, rather than paying the set rate that the utility complained was too high.
A federal law aimed at promoting renewable energy requires utilities to buy electricity from small suppliers at prices and terms set by state governments.
The Public Service Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to suspend Montana’s rate for solar projects, which was $66 per megawatt hour. A new rate will be established in six months.
NorthWestern Energy sought relief in May after developers proposed 43 solar projects this year.
Commissioners Travis Kavulla of Great Falls and Kirk Bushman of Billings voted against the suspension. Kavulla said the PSC should have updated rates now, while Bushman said the federal law requiring such purchases should be suspended entirely.
March held to support woman found burned on Crow reservation
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana legislators have joined members of the Crow Indian Tribe in calling for more transparency from federal investigators regarding open criminal cases on the reservation.
Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, of Crow Agency, said cases on Native American reservations have been ignored.
About 100 people marched on Highway 212 on Thursday to bring awareness to the April attack of a woman who was found severely burned on the Crow reservation. The victim’s family says Roylynn Rides Horse remains at a Salt Lake City burn center.
Tribal leaders say they’ve received little information from federal agencies investigating the case. Others at the march said they have felt pressure from the FBI to stay silent about crimes.
The FBI denied the allegations in a letter to The Billings Gazette . The agency has declined to comment on the April attack, citing the ongoing investigation.
Baker’s tornado damage still being assessed
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — While cleanup continues in the aftermath of a tornado that hit the town of Baker, state officials say it’s still too early to put a price tag on the damage.
The Billings Gazette reports that the Sunday tornado in east-central Montana destroyed nine homes and damaged more than 50. Five people suffered injuries.
State disaster and environmental officials, along with Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, visited the destruction site Thursday.
Ed Phamke with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality says most of the remaining work needs to be done on Baker Lake.
The tornado formed over the lake and threw debris like all-terrain vehicles, freezers and a nearby park gazebo into the water. Phamke says there’s been no sign of toxic materials found in the lake so far.
Legislative audit dings livestock agency over settlement
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s legislative auditor says the Department of Livestock violated state law when it used livestock fees to pay for part of a $204,000 settlement when its former executive director resigned last year amid scrutiny over how the agency was spending its money.
In a report to be presented at Thursday’s meeting of the Legislative Audit Committee, the auditor says the termination settlement was not an appropriate use of money reserved for enforcing livestock laws.
The department is challenging that assertion.
The first installment of the settlement totaled $120,034 and was paid just a few days after the department announced Mackay’s resignation on Sept. 21.
The payments struck a sour note among some workers because of layoffs and workforce adjustments nine months earlier due to a nearly $300,000 budget deficit.
Judge says waste water from coal plant ponds is “alarming”
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge says he’s alarmed over the massive volume of contaminated water still leaking from storage ponds at an eastern Montana coal-fired power plant, four years after an agreement was reached to address the problem.
A 2012 deal between state regulators and the plant’s manager was intended to clean up decades of contamination at the Colstrip power plant.
But District Judge Robert Deschamps said in a Wednesday ruling that 380 gallons of waste is leaking from the ponds every minute. That’s almost 200 million gallons annually.
Deschamps said environmentalists can proceed with a lawsuit challenging the handling of pollution from Colstrip.
Opponents say Colstrip could close long before plant manager Talen Energy cleans up the problem. Talen is seeking to exit Colstrip.
Attorneys for the state had sought to dismiss the case.