MTPR

Montana Department of Environmental Quality

A Forest Service helicopter near Missoula, MT.
Lane Lamoreaux (PD)

The State of Montana’s fleet of firefighting helicopters remains unable to to fight some fires on federal land, and Wednesday a state legislative council asked for action. It’s been a years-long struggle.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has detected elevated levels of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in samples taken from the oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers.
Nicky Ouellet

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has detected low levels of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in samples taken from the oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers.

In a statement, the EPA says it still has not determined the cause of the sheen that was first reported early last week and expects final, validated sampling results next week.

The sheen on Flathead Lake near Somers was first reported to the EPA earlier this week. Thursday, BNSF took steps to contain it. A BNSF representative told MTPR Thursday that early field indicators suggest the sheen comes from a natural organic source.
Nicky Ouellet

BNSF Railway says that, as a precautionary measure, it has removed material from the shore of Flathead Lake near Somers that has a mysterious, oily sheen. The company thinks the sheen's origin is biological, not man-made.

Flathead Lake. Flathead County Commissioners are considering a proposal to regulate short-term housing rentals outside of incorporated towns.
William Neuheisel (CC-BY-2)

The Environmental Protection Agency and BNSF Railway are responding to an unidentified sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake. 

Montana Artesian Water Company is seeking permits for a facility that would produce 1.2 billion bottles of water each year.
Nicky Ouellet

Opponents of a proposed water bottling plant outside of Kalispell held a meeting Wednesday night to update local residents on the status of permits relating to the plant.

The Montana Artesian Water Company’s plant would bottle, ship and sell nearly 192 million gallons - about 1.2 billion 12-ounce water bottles - of treated groundwater per year.

Duane Ankney, the Republican Senator from Colstrip
Mike Albans

Last July, the operators of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant settled a lawsuit with environmental groups, agreeing to shut down the plants two older electricity generators by 2022.

As the community of Colstrip tries to figure out an uncertain future, their Republican Senator Duane Ankney is proposing legislation aiming to provide some security for his town.

Republican Sen. Duane Ankney from Colstrip says the bill isn’t supposed to penalize the companies for leaving, but to help set expectations for when they do.
Mike Albans

The state senator from Colstrip is asking lawmakers in Helena to consider a bill requiring a more detailed cleanup plan for when two coal-fired electric generators in his town shut down.

On Monday, Republican Duane Ankney proposed the first of several bills he is bringing forward this legislative session directed at the future of Colstrip

Remediation specialists are trying to contain a 7,000 gallon diesel spill in the Missoula rail yard.

Montana Rail Link detected the spill on Monday and issued a public announcement Thursday.

By Friday afternoon, cleanup crews had excavated 1,100 yards of contaminated soil. There is continued concern over whether the spill might affect Missoula’s aquifer. 

Nov. 30 marks the end of open burning season in Montana.
Karl Nousiainen

Wednesday marks the end of open burning season in Montana. 

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
Corin Cates-Carney

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior visited Montana Monday to announce a plan blocking mining on public lands just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Emigrant Peak north of Yellowstone, near the area of a proposed Lucky Minerals mine exploration.
Flickr user Sean Wolf (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

State officials say a Canadian company’s proposal to explore for gold and other precious metals near Yellowstone National Park will have no significant environmental impact. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality today released its draft environmental assessment of Lucky Minerals’ plan.

Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)

A new study says that Montana’s potential for wind energy production is better than that of the Columbia River Gorge, between Oregon and Washington.

Members of Water For Flathead's Future watch a documentary on water bottling at a potluck Wednesday night.
Nicky Ouellet

If water is becoming the new oil, the Flathead Valley could become the new Bakken. That’s what many people fear since news of a proposed water bottling plant outside of Kalispell broke earlier this spring.

Last week, Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality hosted a public meeting to take comments on one aspect of the proposed facility. Comments are due this coming Monday.

Senate Bill 215 would establish more rigorous permitting requirements for bottling plants that bottle at least 100 acre feet of water each year.
(PD)

The public is getting an additional 10 days to comment on one aspect of a proposed water bottling plant in Creston. That’s because of a technical error by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

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

Three environmental groups settled their lawsuit from 2012 over coal ash pollution at the Colstrip power plant on Thursday.

EPA, Montana Reach Tentative Deal On Butte Cleanup Work

Jun 3, 2016
Uptown Butte, looking north, at the intersection of Main Street and Park Street in April, 2006.
(PD)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Montana and federal officials have reached a tentative agreement on the removal of more contaminated mine waste around Butte.

EPA: Billings Now Meets Federal Air Pollution Standards

May 3, 2016
Governor Steve Bullock, D-MT, announcing Billings is the first area in the country to be re-designated as meeting federal air quality standards for SO2. Behind Bullock is John Felton of Riverstone Health and Jeff Walters of the Billings Chamber of Commerc
Jackie Yamanka - Yellowstone Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Billings is now in compliance with federal air pollution standards. Gov. Steve Bullock says this is the first time EPA has reversed a “non-attainment” designation.

Water from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky leaks into the Gallatin River, March 3, 2016.
Courtesy Explore Big Sky/Outlaw Partners

State officials today released the third and final water quality report for the March 3 wastewater spill that polluted parts of the Gallatin River.

Officials wanted to know how pharmaceutical traces found in the sewage waste could have affected human and aquatic life.

Water from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky leaks into the Gallatin River, March 3, 2016.
Courtesy Explore Big Sky/Outlaw Partners

Trace amounts of E. coli and nitrates were found in samples from the Gallatin River. This was a result of a pipe leak that spilled 35 million gallons of sewage water into the Gallatin River earlier this month.

Water from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky leaks into the Gallatin River, March 3, 2016.
Courtesy Explore Big Sky/Outlaw Partners

No more water is leaking from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky into the Gallatin River. At least 35 million gallons of the wastewater spilled into the river since last Thursday. The early phases of the investigation have revealed more questions than answers.

Water from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky leaks into the Gallatin River, March 3, 2016.
Courtesy Explore Big Sky/Outlaw Partners

State public health, environmental and wildlife officials are in Big Sky accessing the damage after the spill of millions of gallons of sewage water contaminated parts of the Gallatin River. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Kristi Ponozzo says the treated waste does not pose a risk to human health.

The Missoula valley’s air quality hasn’t been this unhealthy since 2013.
Courtesy Montana DEQ

The Missoula valley’s air quality hasn’t been this unhealthy since 2013. A relatively rare Stage II air pollution warning was issued earlier today and is expected to persist through most of Thursday.

MontPIRG Intern Sophie Moon, and owner of Blackfoot River Outfitters John Herzer at a MontPIRG press conference.
Courtesy Bryce Bennett

Tintina resources today filed an application for an operating permit for its proposed Black Butte copper mine near White Sulphur Springs that the company has been preparing for years.

Tintina started exploratory work on the proposed mine about four years ago. Last month, an Australian-owned firm became Tintina’s majority owner.

Air quality has been poor in some NW Montana towns today.
Montana DEQ

The air quality in Thompson Falls and Libby has improved today, but Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality says 24-hour cumulative exposure in Thompson Falls remains “very unhealthy,” and in Libby the cumulative exposure reading is “unhealthy.”

Wildfires are impacting air quality in Libby and Thompson Falls.
Montana DEQ

The Department of Environmental Quality is reporting unhealthy air quality in Libby this afternoon. It says the air in Thompson Falls is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

Fans of non-petroleum energy are having a “Clean Energy Fair” in Missoula’s Caras Park Saturday. Diana Maneta, the executive director of the Montana Renewable energy association says they’ll be unveiling a new initiative called Solarize Missoula.

Air quality is poor across Montana due to wildfires burning in the western U.S.
Montana DEQ

Smoke levels across most of Montana spiked today, with air quality readings reaching "Very Unhealthy" in several locations, including Missoula, Great Falls, and the Flathead Valley; and reaching the highest warning level, "Hazardous" in Hamilton.

Meteorologist Kristen Martin with Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the smoke could get even worse before it starts to get better over the weekend.

Government data from 2012 through 2014 shows worsening air quality in many Montana counties including: Flathead, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Missoula, Ravalli and Richland Counties.
Josh Burnham

This year, fire season has collided with the school year all over the west, especially in northwest and north central Montana, where the smoke from blazes as far away as Washington has left the air loaded with particulates that make it unhealthy to breathe, forcing teachers and coaches to decide whether to send students out for recess or practice, or keep them indoors.

The moratorium on major new coal leases on federal land that the Obama administration announced today, is either long-overdue or the latest offensive in the ongoing war on coal. That depends on whom you ask.
BLM

News reports are saying that President Obama’s Clean Power Plan has set new targets for Montana that are twice as large as those floated last year in a draft of the plan. But the head of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, Tom Livers, says it’s still unclear to him what exactly the new thresholds are.

Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)

The plan the White House unveiled today to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide is meeting with strong and broad criticism in Montana.

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