Montana Department of Environmental Quality

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.

Smoky air is Montana is forcing Montana's student atheletes inside or limiting their practices.
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.

Critics of the Clean Power Plan worry about its impacts on coal development and jobs.

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.

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

Alan Kirk, mine permitting manager, and Bob Jacko, vice president of operations for Tintina show plans for the Black Butte Mine in July 2015.
Steve Jess

About 50 miles east of Helena, in White Sulphur Springs, residents are weighing the benefits that a new copper mine could bring to their community: about 200 new jobs along with millions of dollars to spur business growth. Opponents of the mine say Montana risks losing something even more valuable, one of its last unspoiled rivers.

Emigrant Peak, near the area of the proposed mine exploration
Flickr user Sean Wolf (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Caroline Byrd describes south-central Montana's scenic Emigrant Gulch in the Paradise Valley as Yellowstone National Park's "northern backdoor".

"It's got wildlife. It's got water. It's got scenic beauty and it's got real ecological importance for keeping the whole place knit together," says Byrd.

Byrd, the executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition says that's no place for a mine.

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company
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."