Edward O'Brien



Columbia Falls Aluminum
5:17 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Rising Energy Prices, Global Competition Led To Aluminum Smelter Closure

Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant
Credit Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

To many Columbia Falls residents the full closure of the local aluminum smelter was more a matter of when than if.

That question was answered with certainty this week when Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced that it's permanently shuttering the plant.

Local real estate agent Bill Dakin say this development was a long time coming.

"This announcement, finally, an honest announcement that this plant will never refine aluminum again, is kind of a new day here."

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Montana News
5:18 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company Closing Permanently

Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant
Credit Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced Tuesday it’s permanently closing its doors. The plant stopped production in 2009 during the height of the recession. The company was once a major employer in the Flathead Valley.

A skeleton crew has maintained Columbia Falls Aluminum Company for over 5 years as officials waited for the right time to reopen.

Word came this week that time will never come.

Company spokesman Haley Beaudry says several factors sealed the plant's fate including increased global competition and continued depressed aluminum prices.

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Butte Baseball Facility
5:30 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

American Legion Baseball In Butte Gets A Boost

Butte's American Legion baseball teams are now $1 million closer to a brand new facility at Copper Mountain Park.

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Montana Resources contributed a total of $1 million to bring a proposed $2 million American Legion baseball facility to Butte.

Northwestern Energy will chip-in $50,000; half of that in cash, with the rest in the form of an in-kind labor donation to install lighting.

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Matt Vincent predicts lots of people will attend night games.

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Hazardous Material Transport
5:03 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Rail Safety Analysis Sparks Concern Over Oil Trains

Oil train.
Credit flickr user: Roy Luck (CC-BY-2.0)

A new analysis of train safety and recent accidents involving spilled crude oil has caught the attention of many Montanans, especially as more trains carrying oil are moving through the state.

That’s because a lot crude moves on our rail lines.

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Montana News
4:55 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Environmental Group Calls For Moratorium On Oil Shipments By Rail

Oil train passing through Essex, MT near Glacier National Park.
Credit Flickr User Roy Luck (CC-BY-2.0)

At least one environmental organization is calling for an immediate moratorium on crude oil shipments by rail.

That's following a recent analysis that says oil trains could potentially crash almost once a month nationwide.

MTPR's Edward O'Brien reports the group believes the risk to both human life and the environment is too great.

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2015 Legislature
5:54 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

SRS Funding Bill Could Bring Relief To Montana Timber Counties

Montana's U.S. senators are getting behind a new bill they say will help Montana's most rural counties round-out their budgets.

Mineral County Commissioner Duane Simons says communities like his are reeling after Congress failed to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act last fall.

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Secure Rural Schools Funding
3:53 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Sen. Tester Backs Secure Rural Schools, PILT Funding Bill

Sen. Jon Tester

Democratic Senator Jon Tester has signed-on to a new bill that he says would bring badly-needed financial security to Montana's most rural and timber-dependent counties.

Senator Tester says the "Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes Repair Act" would annually reauthorize Montana's SRS payments for three years at $23 million, the level provided in 2011.

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Native American Entrepreneurs
4:56 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

State Grants Help Native American Business Owners

Ronan businessman Robert Bell is proud of his compost. Bell says he can now offer his customers an even better product, thanks to a state grant program to assist Native American entrepreneurs.

The state commerce department has awarded nine Native American small business owners a total of $84,000.

Bell, a Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal member, will use his $14,000 cut to buy a dirt screener.

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Unsafe Jails
4:39 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Sheriff: Inadequate Funding Exacerbates Montana's Jail Problems

Credit ACLU

A new report says too many of Montana's county jails are unsafe for inmates.

The president of the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association says it makes some valid points and adds there’s a reason for those conditions.

Chris Hoffman is also sheriff of Ravalli County and says operating jails isn’t easy.

"It is difficult work. Our mandate is to keep those facilities clean and safe for both the inmates and detention officers. It's a challenge every day."

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Montana News
6:23 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Tester, VA Director Clash Over 'Closure' Of Psych Unit

Credit CC-BY-2.0

The acting director of veterans health care in Montana is on the defensive after Senator Jon Tester said the VA health center in Helena is temporarily closing its inpatient mental health unit.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald in Washington, Tester said, “staffing levels at the VA in Montana are at the point where it can no longer safely staff the eight bed acute inpatient section of the mental health facility at Ft. Harrison” in Helena.

Johnny Ginnity, acting director at Ft. Harrison says, that doesn’t mean the mental health ward is being closed.

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