Ruling backs Montana’s right to Wyoming water for reservoir
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a long-running dispute over state water rights says Wyoming is obligated to provide enough water to fill a reservoir in Montana.
But Special Master Barton Thompson Jr. is rejecting Montana’s bid to be reimbursed for some of the more than $4.6 million it has spent in the 2007 lawsuit against its southern neighbor.
Thompson said in a ruling this week that Montana is not entitled to recover costs incurred since he issued preliminary recommendations in February 2010. Montana Justice Department spokesman Eric Sell did not have an estimate for those costs.
Montana claims it was shorted on water flowing down the Tongue River from Wyoming during 15 years. Thompson concluded the shortage was just two years and Montana deserves $35,877 in compensation.
White nationalists raise millions with tax-exempt charities
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Four groups at the forefront of the white nationalist movement are registered as charities with the IRS and have raised more than $7.8 million in tax-deductible donations over the past decade.
An Associated Press review found the groups used the money to pay for websites, books, conferences and other forums for spreading their ideology. The money also personally compensates group leaders.
The groups have already been emboldened by Donald Trump’s popularity and group leaders say they hope the president-elect’s victory helps them raise even more money and gives them a larger platform for spreading their ideology.
The groups present themselves as educational organizations, but watchdogs have labeled them racist extremists.
Inmate sentenced in Montana prison drug-smuggling scheme
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An inmate has been sentenced to more than 7 ½ years of additional prison time for his role in a drug-smuggling scheme in the Montana State Prison.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Wednesday sentenced Ian Scott Barclay to 92 months for conspiring to smuggle drugs into the Deer Lodge prison and bribing a prison worker.
The sentence is the longest to date in the scheme that involved five people. The prison laundry worker, Erin Bernhardt, was previously sentenced to 14 months. Cordero Metzker was sentenced to three years for arranging to have two women in Tennessee mail the drugs to Bernhardt.
The two Tennessee women have made plea agreements with prosecutors, but have not been sentenced.
Prosecutors say the five conspired to sell methamphetamine and the drug Suboxone last year to other inmates in the prison.
Feds order correction to plan to North Dakota pipeline owner
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal regulators have outlined corrective steps that must take place before a company may restart a pipeline that leaked 176,000 gallons of oil into and along a creek in western North Dakota.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the order Tuesday to Belle Fourche (foosh) Pipeline Co.
Company spokeswoman Wendy Owen says the order is under review.
A landowner spotted the spill Dec. 5, after the company’s monitoring equipment failed to detect the rupture.
The company says erosion of a hillside might have ruptured the pipe, but the cause is still being investigated. A precise location of the break is unknown.
The federal agency’s order requires the company to excavate the pipeline in the area of the break, including where it’s placed 45 feet below the creek bed.
Lawsuit seeks to extend political practices chief’s tenure
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A lawsuit seeks to keep Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl on the job until June 2019.
Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Motl in 2013 to serve until Jan. 1 2017, which is six years after the departure of the last commissioner to be confirmed by the state Senate.
Since his appointment and confirmation, Motl has wiped out the office’s backlog of complaints and brought a high-profile corruption trial against Republican Rep. Art Wittich.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday argues Motl should have a full six-year term as commissioner and that Bullock made an error when he set Jan. 1 as the expiration of Motl’s term.
The plaintiffs are Democratic Sen. Christine Kaufmann, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, former Republican Rep. Jesse O’Hara, Al Smith of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association and a group called Montanans for Experienced Judges.
Billings casino robbed at gunpoint
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A masked man armed with a handgun has robbed a casino in Billings.
The Billings Gazette reports that police have not made any arrests.
The robbery occurred about 11:50 p.m. Tuesday at the Magic City Casino. An undisclosed amount of money was taken after the suspect pointed the gun at a casino worker and demanded money.
The man was described as about 5-feet 11-inches tall with a medium build. He was wearing glasses, a hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, white shoes and had a bandanna covering his face.
No customers were in the casino at the time of the robbery, and no injuries were reported.