Archives for July 2017

DEQ Grants Drilling License Near Yellowstone

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality granted an exploration drilling license near Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday. Lucky Minerals requested the license to search within its privately-owned block in the Emigrant Mining District. KTVQ.com reports the DEQ approved the license after reviewing the environmental impacts of Lucky Minerals’ proposed explorations. This license will allow the corporation to begin exploring in their St. Julian mine claim block, about 12 miles southeast of Emigrant. DEQ Director Tom Livers said they took a hard look at the comments received and the issues identified, and ultimately, the company has agreed to mitigations beyond what is required in the statute. Those mitigations include water quality and wildlife monitoring plans and an alternate access route around the Chico Hot Springs Resort. Additionally, DEQ added analysis of socioeconomic impacts and expanded noise, wildlife, and visual analysis.

Neighbors Helping Those Affected by Fires

Neighbors are showing their generosity and humanity as they help out those affected by the massive Lodgepole Complex fires, which have burned more than 270,000 acres and are about 80 percent contained as of official reports on Thursday night. Many people who live in the area– those affected by the fires– have become part of the firefighting crews. KTVQ.com reports that Joy Global, Incorporatied on Main Street in the Heights has been collecting water, food, first aid and paper supplies. They made one delivery and plan to make another this weekend. Groups are also collecting supplies in Glasgow and expect to make another delivery any day now. A lot of the supplies have been delivered to the VFW in Jordan. Sherlie Hains, who’s coordinating the donated supplies, said feed for cattle and horses and fencing are the biggest needs.

Billings AM News

Two women reportedly walked away from the Passages Women’s Program pre-release center in Billings. 24-year-old Bethany Freemont and 23-year-old Tahnee Cloud walked away from the facility on South 27th Street at 9:45 Tuesday night. Freemont is described as Native American, 5-feet, 5-inches tall, 160 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Cloud is also Native American, 5-feet, 11-inches tall, 210 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Anyone with information is asked to contact local law enforcement.

The man convicted of kidnapping a 4-year-old Poplar girl from a park and raping her before leaving her for dead was sentenced on Wednesday to 42 years in federal prison. 21-year-old John Lieba heard the sentence in U.S. District Court in Great Falls Wednesday– 500 months in prison for kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, and assault– he was found guilty in a federal trial in April.

Montana Officials React to Trump Trans-Ban

President Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning tweetstorm– reinstating a ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. armed forces– has Montana leaders reacting to the news. Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines said he respects the decision of the Commander-in-Chief, while Democratic Senator Jon Tester chided the declaration from Trump’s personal Twitter account, saying military decisions with major consequences should be left to the folks on the front lines and not subject to the whims of politics, and that every service member and veteran who has sacrificed for our country deserves our support.
Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte issued a statement, saying he believes resources for our military should be dedicated to paying service members well and making sure they have what they need to defend our country. He looks forward to seeing a fully developed policy from the commander in chief.

House Blocks Shift of VA Money

The U.S. House of Representatives has rejected a plan to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift $2 billion from other programs to cover a sudden budget shortfall in its Choice program of private-sector care following opposition from veterans’ groups. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the Republican chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has been working to reach a compromise and his office declined to comment. The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, introduced a bill earlier this month that would provide equal levels of extra funding for Choice and VA programs. Put in place after a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

Lodgepole Complex Fires Update

Now being called the largest wildfire in the country, the 270,000 acre Lodgepole Complex fires continued to grow, though at a much slower rate. Fire crews and equipment in Garfield and Petroleum counties, have exceeded what officials ordered, even before any were mobilized with a state fire emergency declaration, issued by Gov. Steve Bullock Sunday. About 55 small firefighting engines, five larger engines, and about 20 water tenders have arrived from more than 30 states to fight the blaze. Tim Engrav, a spokesman for the fire’s incident command team, said they’ve got the field personnel needed at this point. He also said there had been no conversation with the governor’s office about additional resources for the fire. Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel confirmed that no National Guard troops have been mobilized, nor have additional resources been directed at the fire.

Healthcare Meeting at MSUB

A public meeting was held on the Montana State University Billings campus on Monday to inform Montanans about changes in their health care plans– specifically, the reason for rate changes in plans. Federal guidelines require, whenever rates increase by 10-percent, mandatory meetings to keep the public aware of changes. Blue Cross Blue Shield, PacificSource Health Plans and Montana Health Co-Op were the three companies at the meeting. Commissioner Matt Rosendale of Security and Insurance for Montana said he feels it’s important to show people different options so they have time to shop around and pick a plan that’s right for them. Todd Lovshin with PacificSource Health Plans said this years open enrollment is only 45 days. He’s urging Montanans to do their research and pick a plan that works for their families, before the mad rush of enrollment.

Billings Tuesday AM News

Over six hundred firefighters have begun to gain ground on the Lodgepole Complex fires burning in Garfield and Petroleum Counties in eastern Montana. KTVQ.com reports that, as of Monday night, the fire has blackened about 250,000 acres but is now 20 percent contained.

An 8-month-old was transported by Life Flight to a hospital in Salt Lake City after the infant was ejected from a vehicle during a wreck and pinned under the car in Downtown Billings on Monday at the intersection of North 31st Street and 2nd Avenue North. A 59-year-old Billings man in a van failed to yield the right of way. The van struck the passenger side of an oncoming SUV, causing it to overturn. A good Samaritan lifted the vehicle enough to remove the infant, who suffered several fractured bones. The baby is listed in “stable” condition.

Lodgepole Complex Firefighters Getting Help

Governor Steve Bullock issued an executive order declaring a fire emergency in Montana on Sunday, and KTVQ.com reports the Lodgepole Complex fires, which consist of four fires burning in eastern Montana, have burned 12 homes and an estimated 226,000 acres. It remained at zero percent containment as of Sunday night.
Incident commander Rick Connell says Montana resources have been mostly tapped out, but that help is coming in from the eastern United States. Crews and engines began arriving from Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri and New York, and the hope is that they will have 300 to 500 firefighters working to control the blaze.
No injuries were reported at the time of this broadcast, but evacuations remain in place for Garfield County. There is no timetable as to when those residents will be able to return to their homes.

UM Student Returned From China

A University of Montana student has been safely reunited with his mother. 25-year-old Guthrie McLean, who was detained in China, has been released thanks to the efforts of U.S. Senator Steve Daines, who worked through the weekend with both the Chinese and United States Embassies, the Chinese government, local officials and McLean’s mother, Jennifer, to ensure his safe release. Jennifer McLean, who teaches in China, emailed Daines at 11:53 a.m. on Sunday saying, [quote] “prayers answered, Guthrie is home.” [end quote]
Daines, along with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Congressman Greg Gianforte, pressed McLean’s case with China’s Ambassador Ciu Tiankai and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The lawmakers said McLean had been justifiably defending his mother– who is def– from a Chinese taxi driver, whose knee was reportedly hurt in the encounter when Guthrie pushed him to the ground.