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Lone Elk Lake
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, coal-export ports, sage grouse and hydraulic fracturing bans are in the news.

Wyoming legislators may take up a bill next year that will raise the limit on the Wyoming Infrastructure Agency can borrow to $3-billion and would allow the agency to fund projects outside the state, both provisions which would clear the way for export of the state's coal.

That state and Montana have been granted leave by Oregon to participate in the appeal filed by Ambre Energy of the state's denial of a permit for a coal-export port at the Port of Morrow.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the federal government will continue collecting data on sage grouse despite the federal budget bill prohibiting listing of the species through the end of the fiscal year.

A report on a five-year study done on two nesting sites in Montana and Wyoming found that survival rates of sage grouse improve when leks are surrounded by high grass, although the study did not examine how grazing affects sage grouse.

And in Colorado, where several local governments have put moratoriums or bans on the use of the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, a state legislator is working on legislation that would require mineral rights holders in those areas be compensated for the loss of the ability to develop those rights.

And in Beyond the region, New York State on Wednesday banned the use of hydraulic fracturing.

In On the Bookshelf today, Barbara Theroux provides reviews of books that will make great holiday gifts, and as a bonus, we threw in the list of books she's reviewed over the past year, which we believe would also be great gift ideas.

Rockies today

Oregon will allow Wyoming, Montana to participate in coal-port appeal
Montana and Wyoming, two coal-producing states that would benefit the most from new coal-export ports on the West Coast, will be allowed to participate in the appeal of Oregon's denial of Ambre Energy's permit for just such a terminal at the Port of Morrow, although the states' role will be limited to examining witnesses and discovering evidence in regard to just one issue: Oregon's conclusions about the social and economic benefits of the proposed port. The administrative hearing on the appeal is currently set for next December.
Portland Oregonian; Dec. 18

Wyoming lawmakers amenable to measures to promote coal exports
Loyd Drain, the executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Agency, said lawmakers are considering raising the amount the agency could borrow to $3 billion and allow the agency to work on projects beyond the state's borders, both provisions that would ease the state's way in helping build coal export terminals.
Casper Star-Tribune; Dec. 18

Colorado legislator works on bill to pay mineral rights owners if bans enacted
State Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, said she believes that if communities in Colorado impose moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing, they need to compensate mineral-rights holders who are prohibited from developing those rights, and is working on legislation to do just that.
Durango Herald; Dec. 18

B.C. First Nation warns of lawsuit over Dec. 10 tailings spill
A discharge box plugged and overfilled at the Copper Mountain Mine in southern British Columbia on Dec. 10, sending 500 tons of mine slurry into a ravine and into Wolf Creek, which flows into the Similkameen River, and although company officials said they have taken measures to contain the spill and put a larger barrier to prevent future spills, the Lower Similkameen Indian Band said they may seek an injunction to shut the mine down until a third-party investigation can be made into the spill and the cleanup.
Vancouver Sun; Dec. 18

Montana's federal lawmakers discuss compromises in public lands bill
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester told the Missoula Independent that he realized soon after the discussion began shortly before Election Day on the public lands package that he would not be successful in getting his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act included in the package of bills to be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act so he focused on getting the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act in the package, and when negotiations moved from the Senate to the House, Montana Rep. Steve Daines required the release of acres classified as wilderness study areas, with 14,000 acres of the Zook and Buffalo creek WSA's released in the final deal, with an additional 15,000 WSA acres near the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge to be considered for oil and gas potential over the next five years.
Missoula Independent; Dec. 18

Interior Department to continue collecting data on sage grouse
Despite the prohibition in the $1.1-trillion federal budget for listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said work will continue to collect and analyze data on sage grouse, and she criticized the political posturing that led to the spending ban, and in Montana, which along with Wyoming, has the largest number of the birds, Gov. Steve Bullock said conservation projects will continue.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Dec. 18

Study in Montana, Wyoming links taller grasses to more sage grouse
A five-year study of sage grouse nests at two sites in the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana found that the likelihood of at least one egg hatching in a sage grouse nest was higher when the grass around the nest was taller, and less likely in areas where the grass was shorter, a finding that could have considerable implications for grazing on public lands.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); Dec. 18

Montana Parks Board won't require bear-proof food containers on Smith River
Over the past two years, eight black bears were killed along the Smith River corridor due to conflicts with people floating the river, prompting the staff of the agency to recommend that campers and boaters use bear-proof containers, a recommendation the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board rejected, and instead ordered parks staff to come up with other recommendations to keep bears from being attracted to camps and stops along the river, which the Board will take up before permits to float the river are issued next spring.
Helena Independent Record; Dec. 18

Chobani's new system to reuse water to address disposal concerns in Idaho
After residents of Hollister complained about the truck traffic and the smells from a farm where Chobani disposed of acid whey, a waste product from its Greek yogurt plant in Twin Falls, company officials announced its new reverse osmosis system will go into operation early next year that will not only cut its water use by 20 percent, but will also end the need for disposing of the byproduct as a soil amendment.
Twin Falls Times-News; Dec. 18

Increased oil train traffic impetus for N. Idaho emergency response review
Kootenai, Bonner and Boundary counties in Northern Idaho, through which the amount of oil transported by rail could triple within the next five years, have received a $36,000 federal grant to update their emergency response plans that will build on work already done or in progress, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and the three railroads operating that part of Idaho, BNSF Railway, Montana Rail Link and Union Pacific, are also participating in the work.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; Dec. 18


Audit finds indoor, outdoor divide on water use in Utah
An audit done by the Utah Office of the Legislative Auditor General of the Utah Division of Drinking Water found that a 1979 requirement that new development provide 400 gallon per day average of water for indoor use is 40 to 50 percent higher than actual use in three of the state's largest urban areas, and that the peak standard of 800 gallons per day per connection is 57 percent higher than the average peak, but the audit found the opposite true for outdoor water use, with requirements far too low compared with actual use, prompting the state water agency to call for development of a statewide water plan.
Deseret News; Dec. 18

California, Nevada, Arizona sign pact to conserve Lake Mead water
At the annual conference of the Colorado River Water Users Association last week in Las Vegas, California, Nevada and Arizona signed a deal to add as much as 3 million acre feet of water to Lake Mead by 2020, primarily by making changes in water management and through conservation efforts.
New York Times; Dec. 18


Montana's brucellosis policy, Wyoming's elk feeding program at cross-purposes
Once again this winter, Montana is prepared to slaughter 900 bison that wander out of Yellowstone National Park, despite scientific evidence that the risk of the bison transmitting brucellosis to domestic cattle is less than three-tenths of a percent, while Wyoming is prepared to again feed elk on 22 feedgrounds, where science again establishes that those feedgrounds are hot spots for wildlife diseases and that the likelihood of migratory elk transmitting the disease to domestic cattle is nearly 100 percent. Todd Wilkinson takes readers through his series of columns on wildlife diseases that connect the dots on elk and brucellosis and bison and Montana's continued grasp on policies that wrongly target bison in its brucellosis fight.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; Dec. 17

Beyond the region

New York State bans hydraulic fracturing due to health concerns
On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state's de facto ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing would become permanent after receiving the report of a health panel that studied the drilling process that uses a combination of water, sand and chemicals introduced underground at high pressure to break open rock formations to release oil natural gas and found substantial risks to public health.
New York Times; Dec. 18

Federal grand jury indicts 4 on chemical spill into West Virginia river
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury indicted four owners and operators of Freedom Industries, the company that owned a storage tank that leaked 10,000 gallons of an industrial chemical into West Virginia's Elk River on Jan. 9.
New York Times; Dec. 18

U.S. oil companies plan to increase production next year
Despite oil trading at a five-year low, U.S. companies say that decreased drilling costs and enhanced techniques will allow them to increase production next year that will offset the low prices.
Salt Lake Tribune (Bloomberg); Dec. 18

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"O ur government should not have the authority to deprive a mineral owner of their property without just compensation. My bill protects mineral owners, and ensures they will be fairly compensated if a county decides to enact a fracking ban."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux provides her annual reviews of books to give


Mountain West Perspectives
Montana's two-year colleges revamp education to meet changing workplace demands


Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana