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.
Plan to build drone facility in northern Wyoming canceled
POWELL, Wyo. (AP) — A plan to build a drone manufacturing facility at a municipal airport in northern Wyoming has been canceled.
Less than a month after receiving tentative approval for a $435,400 state grant, GT Aeronautics and the city of Powell have decided to part ways on the project.
Mayor John Wetzel tells The Powell Tribune it’s difficult for an emerging business to commit to a long-term lease, which the city and state needed before they could pump almost half a million dollars into the building. Wetzel added that it’s unfortunate that the city didn’t already have a building that would work for GT Aeronautics.
Company President Tom Rullman had said the airport would be among the first to serve both piloted airplanes and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Groups sue to stop US use of cyanide predator killing traps
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Environmental and animal-welfare groups have filed a lawsuit claiming the U.S. government is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing the use of two predator-killing poisons.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Montana by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups seeks an immediate ban of the poisons where they could harm federally protected species including grizzly bears.
One device placed in the ground sprays cyanide when triggered by animals.
An Idaho boy was injured last month when he checked one out with his dog on federally-owned land. The dog died.
The other poison targeted in the lawsuit is a pesticide called Compound 1080 placed in collars worn by livestock and ingested by attacking predators.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is named in the lawsuit.
Montana lawmakers advance bill on youth concussions
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Legislature is advancing a bill that would extend safeguards against youth concussions to private schools and sports associations.
State lawmakers passed a bill in 2013 requiring student athletes in public schools to be removed from play after showing signs of having a concussion.
The measure the state Senate endorsed Tuesday 50-0 would require youth leagues and non-public schools to also establish protocols for an athlete’s return to play after suffering a concussion.
Republican Sen. Daniel Salomon of Ronan says the bill will take pressure off coaches to put athletes who may have suffered concussions back into competitive games.
The bill must pass a final vote in the Senate and the House must agree to the Senate’s changes before the measure goes to Gov. Steve Bullock.
Senate Republicans confident in $200 million rainy day fund
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Senate has given final approval to a $10.3 billion budget for the next two years, but lawmakers still haven’t decided how much to set aside in reserves.
Republicans in both chambers hope to set aside $200 million in a rainy day fund, about $100 million less than what Gov. Steve Bullock wants.
Senate Republicans say they have the minimum $200 million in their version of the budget, but Budget Director Dan Villa says Republicans could be making shaky assumptions on future revenue and on spending bills still making their way through the legislative process.
A status report released last year projects a General Fund balance of $154 million after the end of the 2019 fiscal year. However, rosier revenue forecasts over the next three years have boosted optimism.
Bill wouldn’t allow governor to use state plane to campaign
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Senate has advanced a bill seeking to prohibit the governor from using the state’s aircraft for campaign purposes in the two months before an election.
The Senate endorsed the measure on Tuesday, 30-17, while the House approved it in February. Both votes were mostly along party lines.
Gov. Steve Bullock’s use of the state airplane became a hot political issue during the 2016 campaign. His opponent Greg Gianforte and other Republicans accused Bullock of misusing state resources.
Bullock argued his primary use of the aircraft was for official business, but acknowledged that he also held campaign activities, including fundraisers, during those same trips. His office said the governor’s re-election campaign reimbursed the state $4,700.
The bill also requires the governor to disclose fundraiser attendees.