Remote control boat launches successfully in toxic pit
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A remote-controlled boat has been successfully launched into a former Montana open-pit mine where thousands of snow geese died last fall.
The Montana Standard reports Wednesday’s launch in the Berkeley Pit came after a failed attempt last week due to mechanical errors with the boat’s remote-controlled devices.
The watercraft was designed by Montana Tech student Abdullah Alangari with a $50,000 grant donated by Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield Co.
A Montana Tech team helped prepare the boat for launch and used a laptop to guide the boat as it took water samples Wednesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency requires the water be sampled twice a year under an agreement reached over the Berkeley Pit cleanup.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 migrating snow geese died after landing in the pit last November.
Ex-UM president coming back to teach chemistry
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Former University of Montana President Royce Engstrom is returning to the university to teach chemistry.
The Missoulian reports UM spokeswoman Paula Short confirmed Wednesday that Engstrom will begin teaching this fall. Engstrom became president in 2010 and stepped down in November.
The school’s academic planner shows he will teach an introductory chemistry course and an honors course titled “The ways of knowing,” which requires students to evaluate how they come to know truths in the world.
Chris Palmer chairs the school’s chemistry department and says chemistry classes have a retention problem. He says Engstrom wants to help with developing the classes to keep students interested in the subject.
UM officials say they haven’t yet set Engstrom’s teaching salary. He earned $300,000 in his final year as president.
Montana House advances bill against aborting viable fetuses
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An anti-abortion bill that would force doctors to save a potentially viable fetus is a step closer to the governor’s desk.
On a vote of 60-40, the Montana House on Wednesday moved forward on a ban on abortions if there is a better-than-half probability that a fetus can survive outside a mother’s womb.
During debate, legislators spoke of the anguish over difficult pregnancies and decisions — their own or that of friends and family.
The Senate has already passed a similar measure. It is one of three anti-abortion bills in the Legislature, including one seeking to ask voters to accord state constitutional rights to a woman’s fertilized egg at the moment of conception.
Those opposed to the bills say the proposals would strip a woman’s right to an abortion.
APNewsBreak: Thousands of defects found on oil train routes
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Inspectors have found almost 24,000 safety defects over the past two years along U.S. railroad routes used to ship volatile crude oil.
Data obtained by The Associated Press shows many of the defects were similar to problems blamed in past derailments that caused massive fires or oil spills in Oregon, Virginia, Montana and elsewhere.
The safety gaps were discovered during targeted federal inspections on almost 58,000 miles of oil train routes in 44 states. The program began two years ago following a string of oil train accidents across North America, including a 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.
The inspections resulted in 1,118 recommended violations.
Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Marc Willis says the targeted inspections have improved safety by making railroads more responsive to concerns raised by agency officials.
Dems in Trump states pressured from both sides on court pick
WASHINGTON (AP) — How to vote on a Supreme Court nomination is a difficult political call, especially for the 10 Democrats up for re-election next year in states that President Donald Trump won.
Democrats have vowed to oppose Trump and face pressure from their liberal supporters to resist him at every opportunity.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is voting against Gorsuch. She said she comes from a state where, no matter how she votes, half of the people are angry. The difference this time, she says, is “the ones who are happy are really happy.”
Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin had a different calculus — they’re all supporting Gorsuch. Trump won all of their states by more than 19 percentage points.
Advocates of cigarette tax boost make case to lawmakers
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A proposal to hike tobacco taxes awaits action from the House Taxation Committee, which was deluged Wednesday with testimony from health advocates, business owners and those appealing for a stream of money to boost wages for direct care workers.
The Senate passed the proposal last week, but some Republicans hope to kill the measure as it winds through the House. They argue that the nearly $70 million in revenues it would generate over the next two years is unnecessary and would financially hurt smokers who are poor.
Some of the revenue would fund health and anti-tobacco programs, as well as boost wages for direct care workers serving the elderly and the disabled who are covered by Medicaid.
But tobacco-related businesses said the tax would cripple, if not kill their livelihoods.