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

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, the Interior Department's establishment of solar-energy zones in six southwestern states is being challenged in federal court in California.

The three groups that filed the lawsuit said that the federal government should have considered siting solar-energy projects on already developed areas or "brownfields," rather than build industrial-sized installations on pristine desert areas. delved into the financial records of Ambre Energy, the Australian coal company that is proposing building two coal export terminals on the West Coast, and found that the Australian company's energy investments over the past several years have failed to result in a profit.

Ambre Energy officials have accused the Seattle environmental group of engaging in "corporate character assassination," and said the company's losses are typical of any startup.

A Wyoming company has signed a deal to move up to 16 million metric tons of coal mined in Montana through the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Wash.., which SSA Marine is proposing to build, and have up and running by 2018.

In Colorado, The La Plata County Commission considering a moratorium on oil-shale wells to give the county time to assess how such wells will affect water resources and roads.

Also in the news, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed legislation into law on Wednesday that makes a number of changes to the state's wolf management policies and hunting regulations, and in Wyoming, legislators sent a measure to Gov. Matt Mead that will allow hunters to use silencers.

Montana Public Radio's broadcast of The Write Question this evening at 7:30 features host Cherie Newman's interview with William E. Farr about his book "Blackfoot Redemption: A Blood Indian's Story of Murder, Confinement, and Imperfect Justice."

Farr is a Senior Fellow at the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West of which Mountain West News is a program.

Rockies today

Groups file federal lawsuit challenging Interior Dept.'s solar plans
Western Lands Project, the Western Watersheds Project and the Desert Protective Council filed a federal lawsuit in California on Wednesday challenging the federal government's creation of solar energy zones on federal lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, arguing that the federal government should have considered placing large-scale solar-energy projects in already developed areas.
Deseret News; Feb. 14

Coal company with lofty port plans in U.S. has heavy debt burden
Seattle-based researched Ambre Energy, the Australian company that has just recently bought into a coal venture in the United States and has launched plans to build two coal export terminals on the Pacific Northwest coast, and found that the company has been losing money on risky energy ventures since 2005, and lost $65 million in 2012 alone.
Portland Oregonian; Feb. 14

Wyoming firm to export Montana coal through Washington state port
Cloud Peak Energy Inc. announced it had signed a contract to ship up to 16 million metric tons of coal pulled from its mine in Montana through the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the coast of Washington state, which is estimated to be up and running by 2018.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 14

Colorado county mulls moratorium on shale-oil-well development
Houston-based Swift Energy Resources has applied for permits to drill two shale-oil wells in western La Plata County, the first ever of such wells in the Colorado county, and local officials are contemplating putting a moratorium on such development to give the county time to examine how the wells will affect water resources and roads, as oil-shale wells require millions of gallons more water to be drilled and that water would have to be trucked to the drill sites.
Durango Herald; Feb. 14

Report warns Alberta about costs of rising electricity rates
In a report prepared for the Alberta Utilities Commission, industry experts warned that recovering the costs of building transmission lines could more than double megawatt-hour costs by 2018, which may push companies that use a lot of electricity out of the province.
Calgary Herald; Feb. 14

Montana governor signs wolf management bill into law
On Wednesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed House Bill 73 into law that makes a number of changes to the state's wolf hunting policies.
Missoulian; Feb. 14

Wyoming House shoots hunting-with-silencers bill to governor
The Wyoming House voted 44-14 on Wednesday to pass legislation that allows hunters to use silencers, and sent the bill to Gov. Matt Mead for action.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 14

OSHA proposes $14K fine for firefighter death in Idaho
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association for violating eight of the 10 Standing Firefighting Orders when managing the Steep Corner Fire in Idaho near Orofino where a 20-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter was struck and killed by a falling tree.
Idaho Statesman (KLEW-TV); Feb. 14


Oil producers in Utah's Uinta Basin need to pay for infrastructure
The projected cost of improving the roads between Utah's Uinta Basin and Salt Lake City to accommodate much heavier truck traffic to transport the crude which is too waxy to flow through a pipeline is estimated to be around $2 billion, a cost that should be borne by the oil producers not Utah's taxpayers.
Salt Lake Tribune; Feb. 14

Beyond the region

Keystone XL pipeline protest at White House ends in arrests
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Beard, NASA scientist James Hansen and environmental activist Bill McKibben were among those arrested for tying themselves to the White House gate to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Alberta oil south through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries in Texas.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Feb. 14

Report chronicles why U.S. college graduates are underemployed
A new report by the Center for College Affordability & Productivity found that, in 2010, only half the nation's college graduates are working in jobs that require a college degree, and that while the number of people graduating from college will increase by 31 percent in the current decade, the number of jobs requiring such a degree will increase by just 14 percent.
Deseret News; Feb. 14

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T he administration is opting to needlessly turn multiple-use public lands into permanent industrial zones. Solar development belongs on rooftops, parking lots, already-developed areas and on degraded sites, not our public lands."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux provides a preview of coming book attractions for 2016


Mountain West Perspectives
The TransPacific Partnership could affect Rocky Mountain States' local measures


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