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Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock put on hold the work of his advisory team formed to help the state figure out how to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unprecedented decision that put implementation of the plan on hold until after an expedited hearing on challenges to the plan filed by 29 states and a number of corporations is held June 2.

The operator of two coal mines in Wyoming filed paperwork with the bankruptcy court indicating it had received a $500 million for its core assets, that include Alpha Natural Resources' Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines near Gillette.

Legislators in Utah introduced measures addressing the state's ongoing quest to get 31 million acres of federal lands transferred to the state, with Rep. Kay Christofferson introducing a bill to create the "Public Lands Litigation Restricted Account" to receive money from the Legislature, other state agencies and private donors to fund the legal fight to gain control of those federal lands, and Rep. Mike Noel introducing the "Utah Public Land Management Act" to create the legal infrastructure needed to manage those lands.

A frequent criticism of the transfer of federal lands is that the state would sell off large portions of the lands, which Noel's bill addresses by requiring a two-thirds majority vote on any sales involving more than 1,000 acres.

Also in the news, Wyoming reverses an earlier decision and declines to allow a reinjection well for wastewater from an oil and gas operations on Moneta Divide project; a federal wolf removal action in Northern Idaho tangles the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board's budget request before the state Legislature; and the Colorado Board of Revenue reports marijuana sales missed the $1 billion mark in 2015 by just a little more than $3.8 million.

Rockies today

U.S. Supreme Court puts coal-fired plant emissions rule on hold
In an unprecedented ruling on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision to put the Obama administration's regulation of emissions from coal-fired power plants on hold while an appeals court hears an expedited challenge of that regulation filed by 29 states, including Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's decision issued Jan. 21 declined to put implementation of the Clean Power Plan on hold, but did set June 2 to hear arguments in the challenge.
New York Times; Feb. 10

  • Montana governor suspends Clean Power Plan work after high court ruling
    On Tuesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told an advisory council he appointed to develop the state's response to the federal Clean Power Plan to halt their work, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a D.C. Appeals Court decision that declined to halt implementation of the plan while a challenge filed by 29 states and dozens of corporations made its way through the court system. An expedited hearing of the challenge is scheduled for June 2.
    Missoulian; Feb. 10

Wyoming mines among Alpha Natural Resources' assets up for sale
In a bankruptcy court filing on Monday, Alpha Natural Resources indicated that it had received a bid of $500 million for its core assets, which includes the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Wyoming, but analysts said that the Wyoming mines are likely not worth much, given the production costs at the Belle Ayr mine and that together the two mines in Wyoming have reclamation bonds of $411 million.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 10

Idaho again cancels sale of oil, gas leases in 3 southern counties
The proposed oil and gas lease sale on 35,000 acres in Twin Falls, Cassia and Owyhee counties was originally scheduled by the Idaho Department of State Lands on Dec. 17, then rescheduled to Feb. 17, but that sale was canceled last week, with state officials citing current market conditions for oil and gas as the reason for the cancellation.
Twin Falls Times-News; Feb. 10

Utah legislator drafts bill to prepare for state management of federal lands
Rep. Mike Noel's "Utah Public Land Management Act," HB276, would put in place the infrastructure needed should Utah prevail in its lawsuit to force the federal government to turn over 31 million acres of public lands to the state, including the creation of the Division of Land Management within the Department of Natural Resources to manage the resources and require a two-thirds majority vote on selling lands.
Salt Lake Tribune; Feb. 10

Wyoming declines reinjection well application on Moneta Pass
Reversing its 3-2 decision made three years ago, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to deny Aethon, Encana's successor, a permit to reinject up to 10 million barrels of wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations on a day from its proposed Moneta Divide project in Natrona and Fremont counties. Aethon Energy officials said the Commission's decision, which cited concerns about contamination of groundwater for the denial, was based on information submitted by Encana and that Aethon would do its own study.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 10

Idaho wildlife official stonewalls legislator due to ongoing wolf kill operation
On Monday, as Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board member Richard Savage made a budget presentation to the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee, he was asked by Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll about how many wolves were killed in 2015, and "so far in 2016," which he declined to answer. On Tuesday, Todd Grimm, state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Program for Idaho, said Savage's reticence was to protect ongoing operations to kill wolves in the Lolo region in the northern part of the state from sabotage.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; Feb. 10

Colorado retailers report nearly $1B in marijuana sales in 2015
The Colorado Department of Revenue reported that retailers of recreational and medicinal marijuana reported $996,184,788 in sales, a 42 percent increase from the more than $699 million in sales in 2014. Fees and tax revenue from those sales increased from 76 million in 2014 to $135 million in 2015.
Denver Post (The Cannabist); Feb. 10

Alberta unsure about public funding for reclaiming oil wells
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked Canada for $156 million in funding to reclaim 1,000 oil wells over the next two years to put 1,200 oil workers back to work, but putting a similar plan in place in neighboring Alberta elicited a range of opinions, with the oil industry applauding the idea, as did the leaders of the Progressive and Alberta parties, but the leader of the Liberal Party said it would set a dangerous precedent of funding clean-up work that was the responsibility of industry.
Calgary Herald; Feb. 10


Hailey gets $18,000 from Idaho for water conservation measures
The Idaho Water Resources Board gave Hailey an $18,000 grant for the community to offer rebates to residents who replace thirsty turf with xeriscaping or drought-tolerant plants.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); Feb. 10


Wyoming Senate should follow House's lead, shoot down mountain lion trapping bill
On Tuesday, the Wyoming House declined to pass House Bill 12, which would have allowed mountain lions to be trapped or snared. The bill, which was proposed as a way to improve mule deer populations, was not based on sound science and would have had far-reaching implications on the state and a broad spectrum of wildlife. Voters should let their state senators know that they want them to vote as the House did, should a companion bill make its way to the Senate. A guest column by Dr. Mark Elbroch, the lead scientist of Panthera’s Puma Program.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; Feb. 10

Saudi Arabia, U.S. beneficiaries of Canada's climate change stance
Canada's landlocked oil resources have always suffered a deep price discount due to the difficulty of getting the oil from well to customer, and that situation is worsening under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is strangling pipeline projects with even more regulations to meet his climate change agenda, while Saudi Arabia pumped 84,017 barrels of oil a day into New Brunswick’s Irving Oil Ltd. refinery, and refineries in Quebec, where mayors are fighting the Energy East pipeline, are getting their oil shipped in by train from the United States.
Financial Post; Feb. 10

Congress should not allow mountain bikes in wilderness areas
There are trails aplenty on public lands for mountain bike enthusiasts to ride, and hikers and equestrians willingly share those trails with bikers, but Congress must keep the line drawn and not allow mountain bikers in wilderness areas.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); Feb. 10

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"I would call it a slippery slope to the point where we're no longer honoring the commitment to the philosophy that the polluter pays. If we're not getting what we should be getting to clean up these wells, then we need to ensure that we do. Otherwise our laws mean nothing."

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

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

at the

The University of Montana