Our archives

Major Funders:
Foundation for Community Vitality
Greater Montana Foundation
Encouraging communications on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans.
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, the U.S. House, on Monday, passed Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson's Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act.

The Idaho Republican has been working to protect the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains for more than a decade, and a similar measure will be heard by the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week.

In Alberta, the Alberta Utilities Commission ruled that TransAlta's decision nearly four years ago to shut down its plants during peak demand was done to manipulate the electricity market, and an administrative penalty will likely be issued tomorrow, although utility officials said they may appeal the AUC ruling.

In Wyoming, where low oil prices have had a more detrimental effect on jobs than originally predicted, another study makes the case for wind-generated power to be shipped to California.

The report says winds in Wyoming are complementary to California winds, that is they're the strongest at times when California's are not, and the study also said, using wind-generated power from Wyoming would also save water in drought-stricken California, as fossil fuel and nuclear plants use steam in the generation of power.

And in Montana, research done at the Fire Laboratory in Missoula turned conventional wisdom about how wildfires spread on its head, with convection the driving force in the flames, now radiation.

Rockies today

U.S. House passes Idaho wilderness bill
Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson's latest version of his bill to protect the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains passed in the U.S. House on Monday, and the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will likely vote on the Senate's version of the bill this week.
Idaho Statesman; July 28

Alberta Utilities Commission finds TransAlta engaged in price fixing
On Monday, the Alberta Utilities Commission found that Calgary-based TransAlta engaged in market manipulation of prices when it decided to shut down power plants at peak usage times nearly five years ago, and the AUC is expected to set a penalty for the company today, although TransAlta officials said they are considering appealing the decision.
Calgary Herald; July 28

Report says Wyoming's wind, solar power dovetails nicely with California's
A new report for the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority by Jonathan Naughton of the university's Wind Energy Research Center said that Wyoming's wind blows more in the winter and during the afternoon, while California's wind blows more in the summer and at night, providing a more reliable stream of wind-generated power, and Naughton also found that California could save 1.2 billion gallons of water annually by using power produced in Wyoming, reducing its dependency on nuclear and fossil fuel plants, which use steam to generate power.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); July 28

Montana researchers discover convection, not radiation, spreads wildfire
Missoula Fire Science Lab scientists, along with researchers from University of Maryland and University of Kentucky discovered that wildfires are spread through convection, not radiation, a finding that turns previous research on its head.
Missoulian; July 27

Rain aids firefighters in Glacier Park wildfire fight, but flooding a concern
The rain on Monday helped lay down the Reynolds Peak Fire in Glacier National Park in Montana, which crews now say they have the 3,170-acre wildfire 45 percent contained. Park officials plan to reopen a 3-mile stretch of the Going-to-the-Sun Road on Wednesday, as well as the St. Mary's Campground, if all goes well Tuesday.
Missoulian; July 28

Drop in oil prices cuts deeper into Wyoming's economy than predicted
Halliburton and Baker Hughes laid off nearly double the number of oilfield workers they announced they had planned, and in Wyoming, there were 3,700 fewer oilfield workers this June than in a year ago. The service sector in the Cowboy State has shed 4,900 jobs since November, and the number of drilling rigs operating in the state in the week that ended July 24 was 10, down from 33 a year ago.
Casper Star-Tribune; July 28

Wyoming girls create decoys to lure grouse away from drilling noise
Two eighth-grade girls worked with Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist Therese Hartman to create 16 decoy male grouse, which were placed in artificial leks near drilling operations to draw them away from the noisy sites and the experiment appears to be working to keep grouse in the area of leks until drilling ceases and quieter production machines are in place.; July 28

Alberta-based MEG Energy plans to sell pipeline share, expand operations
On Tuesday, MEG Energy announced it planned to sell its interest in the Access Pipeline to allow the Calgary-based company to pay down some debt, and that it planned to expand its production in Alberta next fiscal year. The company increased its year-over-year production in fiscal year 2015, despite being forced to shut down production due to a wildfire.
Calgary Herald; July 28

Vancouver officials say U.S. cities unrealistic in water concerns
While Los Angeles, Seattle and Victoria are still allowing residents to water their lawns, despite drought conditions that are as bad, if not worse, than the drought in British Columbia, City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto said those cities allow such use at their peril.
Vancouver Sun; July 28


Warm waters in Columbia River system could wipe out half of migrating sockeye salmon
The celebration of 500,000 sockeye salmon migrating up the Columbia River and its tributaries has ended, as warming waters are killing the fish, and state and federal fisheries biologists believe that up to half of the fish will die.
Twin Falls Times-News (AP); July 28

Groups fight Wyoming's decision to raise E. coli limit on 76% of waters
Wyoming's decision to reclassify 76 percent of the streams in the state, or 87,775 miles of stream segments, to allow up to five times the current acceptable limit of E. coli bacteria, which can cause severe illness in humans, was criticized by conservation and recreation groups who argued against such a blanket reclassification. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has set a public hearing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 16 in Casper to take public comment on the reclassification.; July 28

Beyond the region

Much to do this week to wrap up Trans Pacific Partnership deal
Negotiators from the United States, Canada and 10 other Pacific nations plan a final push this week in Maui to complete the massive Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact, but there are considerable issues to resolve, with Canada so unwilling to open up its agriculture market that it may simply walk away; Mexico, Vietnam and Brunei have a number of international labor standards to meet; and Australia and New Zealand are struggling with allowing pharmaceutical companies access to their national health systems.
New York Times; July 28

Trial set in TransCanada's use of eminent domain in Nebraska for Keystone XL pipeline
A lawsuit challenging TransCanada's use of eminent domain in nine Nebraska counties to obtain easements for its Keystone XL pipeline will go to trial on Oct. 19 in O'Neill.
Flathead Beacon (AP); July 28

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"W e had a really big migration of sockeye. The thing that really hurts is we're going to lose a majority of those fish."

Ritchie Graves of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about the 500,000 sockeye salmon that migrated up the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, 250,000 of which have already been killed by warm water.
- Twin Falls Times-News (AP)

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews "The Oregon Trail: An American Journey"


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


A Look Ahead
June 19-Aug.4: National Geographic, University of Montana offer a free, online course for educators on watershed education

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