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Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Monday, Jan. 14, 2013
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, coal in Montana, tar sands in Utah and coalbed methane in Wyoming are in the news.

The Montana Environmental Information Center said recent studies done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana on coal production in the state take too much of an industry view that ignores the social and environmental effects of coal mining, and said that MEIC would soon be publishing a rebuttal of the BBER studies.

In Utah, an Alberta company got the go-ahead to build a pilot tar sands project on state lands--the first such project in the Beehive State.

In Wyoming, two wildlife groups got the green light from a federal administrative judge to challenge a coalbed methane gas project in the Atlantic Rim.

Also in the news, the U.S. Forest Service is challenging a flurry of placer mining claims in Northern Idaho, and three Idaho cities tout the economic benefit their investment in wastewater infrastructure brought to their communities.

Rockies today

Oil-spill expert warns against allowing tankers along B.C.'s North Coast
Alberta oil producers want to either pipe or ship bitumen across British Columbia and ship their products to overseas markets, but a marine consultant who was worked on oil spills for nearly 25 years, said an oil spill along British Columbia's North Coast would be calamitous, given the serpentine nature of the coast and the storms that batter the area.
Calgary Herald (Vancouver Sun); Jan. 14

Interior judge rules wildlife groups can challenge Wyoming drilling project
An Interior Board of Land Appeals administrative judge ruled last week that the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation can challenge the Bureau of Land Management's approval of a 48-well coal-bed methane project inside the Atlantic Rim natural gas project in Wyoming based on the land's recreational value.
Casper Star-Tribune; Jan. 13

Tar-sands mine on Utah SITLA lands gets final approval
On Friday, the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining gave Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands the green light to proceed with a pilot project that will use a citrus-based method in the nation's first tar sands project, although a representative of Moab-based Living Rivers, which opposes the project, said it will appeal the decision.
Salt Lake Tribune; Jan. 13

USFS challenges placer mining claims in N. Idaho
A U.S. Department of Interior administrative law judge will hold hearings this week in Orofino on the U.S. Forest Service's challenge of dozens of placer mining claims on the North Fork Clearwater River in northern Idaho.
Idaho Statesman (Lewiston Tribune); Jan. 14

Groups say U. of Montana's coal studies weighted heavily toward business
Patrick Barkey, the research director at the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research said the BBER's recent coal studies, which environmental groups criticized for only looking at the economic benefits of developing Montana's coal resources and not the environmental or social effects of developing those resources, were designed to address only the economic benefit, not weigh the good or bad, about coal development.
Missoulian; Jan. 13

Idaho cities say wastewater infrastructure well worth the investment
Officials of Rupert, Burley and Heyburn, Idaho cities whose taxpayers have agreed to foot the bill to improve their wastewater treatment systems, urged Twin Falls and Jerome to take the plunge, as the investment has paid off in new companies and jobs.
Twin Falls Times-News; Jan. 14

Colorado may be nation's test case for new gun-control legislation
Legislatures across the United States will consider legislation dealing with guns this year, with some bills seeking to protect the status quo, while others would try to impose restrictions, and in Colorado, where two of the worst mass shootings in recent history have occurred, legislators on both sides of the debate believe any legislation passed will serve as a test case for the nation.
New York Times; Jan. 13


Opinion

U.S. needs moratorium on hydraulic fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling method that has allowed the United States to tap into a bounty of natural gas, but until more is known about this method that uses copious amounts of water mixed with chemicals and sand pumped underground at high pressure to crack open rock formations, the nation should impose a moratorium on it.
Salt Lake Tribune; Jan. 14

Beyond the region

Groups in Pacific Northwest press for laws to protect wolves
Concerned about wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, 25 wildlife conservation groups in Washington, Oregon and California have created the Pacific Wolf Coalition to prevent the removal of federal endangered species protection for wolves in those states.
San Francisco Chronicle; Jan. 14

California laboratory taps nearly-century old technology to create biofuel
Chemical engineers at UC Berkeley are producing diesel fuel from plants by building upon a process first used in Israel in 1914 that used a bacterium to ferment sugars and turn them into acetone, butanol and ethanol, also known as ABE, which was used by Britain in World War I to make cordite and explosives.
San Francisco Chronicle; Jan. 14



Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T he important thing about our work, I believe, is that we're not asking what's good or bad about coal. We're simply asking the 'what if' question. This is a view from 30,000 feet. It's not an attempt to give the whole scorecard."

Patrick Barkey, research director at the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, responding to criticism that its recent studies on developing Montana's coal resources have not addressed the social and environmental aspects of such development.
- Missoulian

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The University of Montana