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Environment

Montana news covering wildlife, public lands, natural resources and more.

Trump Administration Finalizes Coal Plant Pollution Rollback

Aug 31, 2020
Coal ash waste at the Colstrip power plant.
Courtesy Alexis Bonogofsky - Montana Environmental Information Center

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday finalized its weakening of an Obama-era rule aimed at reducing pollution from coal-burning power plants that has contaminated streams, lakes and underground aquifers

The change will allow utilities to use cheaper technologies and take longer to comply with pollution reduction guidelines that are less stringent than what the agency originally adopted in 2015.

A group of hunting and conservation organizations say a proposed land swap and new trail in the Crazy Mountains falls short of protecting access to some of the best public land in Montana.

Environmental groups on Aug. 27 sued the Trump Administration for allegedly breaking federal law when it finalized management plans for coal rich land in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming.

The environmental groups in their lawsuit say the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to explore alternatives to strip mining or the impacts of fossil fuel combustion when it approved management plans covering the Powder River Basin.

Bighorn sheep
(PD)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials plan to restore bighorn sheep to a southwestern Montana mountain range where the animals had been killed off due to disease.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials plan to transplant the sheep from Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake to the Tendoy Mountains near Lima, the Independent Record reported.

Nathan Cook, FWP fisheries biologist, Beau Downing, Upper Clark Fork Restoration Manager with Montana's Resource Damage Program, & Alex Leone, restoration specialist with Clark Fork Coalition, scout deposits of mine waste along the upper Clark Fork River
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The state started new work this week to prevent toxic metals in century-old mine waste from seeping into the Upper Clark Fork River. 

On a warm August morning, representatives of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the state’s Natural Resource Damage Program, and the nonprofit Clark Fork Coalition and I set out on a bright green raft for a float just south of Deer Lodge.

A pile of coal.
Flickr user oatsy40 (CC-BY-2)

The expansion of a British Columbia coal mine upstream of Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River will undergo review from the federal Canadian government. The decision handed down Wednesday will apply more scrutiny to the project.

Montana Issues Permit For Black Butte Copper Mine Project

Aug 17, 2020

The State of Montana this week greenlit the first phase of construction of an underground copper mine in the central part of the state.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality on Aug. 14 issued Tintina Montana, Inc. a permit to begin surface preparation for the proposed 311 acre Black Butte Copper Mine north of White Sulphur Springs.

DEQ spokesperson Rebecca Harbage says the permit allows the company to get started in the area.

"It doesn’t involve drilling into the ground. It’s preparation of the surface area itself," Harbage said.

BLM Deputy Director William Perry Pendley.
Bureau of Land Management

News broke over the weekend that the Trump administration is reportedly pulling its contentious nomination for U.S. Bureau of Land Management director. That nominee, William Perry Pendley will continue to lead the BLM as its temporary director.

Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines Aug. 11 met with conservation and public lands groups in Gardiner to celebrate the recent passage of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act.

With the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone National Park in the background, Daines said it was public land that brought a divided Washington, D.C. together.

The U.S. Forest Service will be able to continue with its tree-thinning project in the Elkhorn Mountains.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0) / MTPR

A federal judge has blocked a western Montana logging project pending the resolution of a lawsuit over its potential environmental harm.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters halted the Bureau of Land Management project in the Elkhorn Mountains near Townsend in a ruling last week. The agency wants to cut conifer trees on 7 square miles and burn another 2 square miles.

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