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New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 13, 2016

big sky documentary film festival, missoula, wilma theater

Today in New West news: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival unveils this year’s lineup, Frontier Airlines to add three nonstop flights from Denver International Airport, and Yellowstone National Park has busiest year on record.

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New West Daily Roundup for Dec. 15, 2015

Helena MT Capitol at Sunruse by Jimmy Emerson_DVM Flickr

Today in New West news: new details surface regarding the departure of MT Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, complaints against Frontier Airlines go down although airline hasn’t soared ahead in popularity, and Einstein Bros. Bagels pledges to use cage-free eggs by 2020.

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New West Daily Roundup for Dec. 11, 2015

Downtown Salt Lake City

Here’s your New West news: Utah could be the first state with a “serious” air pollution problem, Denver and Frontier Airlines reconcile as the company seeks to change flights between the Colorado capital and Bozeman, MT; and Denver housing prices reportedly at the “bubble” threshold.

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New West Daily Roundup for Nov. 19, 2015

bison_dec16

Here’s your New West news: Yellowstone proposes killing 1,000 bison this winter, the Denver International Airport Westin hotel holds ribbon-cutting ceremony, the future of Wyoming’s cigarette tax, and how the Ada County Courthouse became the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center.

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Expect Lolo Pass Megaloads Decision By Thanksgiving

Peaked caps and Conoco T-shirts on beefy bodies were prevalent among an audience of about 100 who filled an auditorium at the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in Boise on Friday morning for a dramatic confrontation concerning plans by the oil company to truck four megaloads of refinery equipment along U.S. Highway 12 over Lolo Pass. The look of the audience was in stark contrast to the long, gray hair and alternative-style dress that had predominated at the Idaho Supreme Court hearing Oct. 1. The state supreme court decided it had no jurisdiction to decide a suit brought by three northern Idaho residents to stop the shipments, because proper procedural steps had not been followed. The Nov. 19 hearing was a response to those concerns. Boise attorney Merlyn Clark, who was appointed by ITD director Brian Ness as the hearing officer, said that before Thanksgiving, he will deliver a recommendation on whether the residents’ petition to intervene in the shipments should be upheld or denied.

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Bonner County Gets on the Bus

One outcome of the elections a few weeks ago was completely passed over by the pundits on TV, but it will have a significant effect on residents of and visitors to central Bonner County. I refer, of course, to the passage of a bed tax in the community of Ponderay, a burg of 1000 or so souls just north of Sandpoint. By a margin of 140 to 48, voters in that community approved a 5% tax to be assessed on short-term stays in the town’s hotels and motels. Added to funding from several other sources, proceeds from this tax will provide for a bus system that will connect Ponderay with neighbors Kootenai and Sandpoint, as well as the town of Dover, three miles west of Sandpoint. Despite the burden it will put on them to collect the tax, a majority of lodging owners and operators in Ponderay supported the measure.

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What Is the Idaho Supreme Court Actually Deciding in the Highway 12 Case?

Any day, the Idaho Supreme Court could issue its ruling on the Oct. 1 hearing about the proposed shipment of four oversized loads of oil refinery equipment along U.S. Highway 12 from Lewiston to Billings. When it does, the five justices will have examined numerous points of law, addressed in three lengthy briefs and in arguments during the hearing. But what, exactly, are the legal issues upon which this case, and possibly the future of Highway 12, may turn? New West approached the three lead attorneys in the case and asked them to lay it out layman's terms. Erik Stidham, who spoke in court on behalf of ConocoPhillips, and Idaho Assistant Attorney General Lawrence Allen, who represented the Idaho Transportation Department, both declined to be interviewed on grounds their organizations’ policies prevent them from talking about litigation in process.

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Writer to Gov. Schweitzer: It’s Not Too Late to Stop the Big Rigs

Dear Governor Schweitzer, I remember the stirring speech you gave at the Democratic National Convention in 2008: “We face a great new challenge, one that threatens our economy, our security, our climate and our very way of life …. This costly reliance on fossil fuels threatens America and the world. … We need a new energy system that is clean, green and American made.” That day I was proud of my governor for being on the side of the future. Now, I’m not so proud. These days you say, “We need energy and the safest supply right now is coming from places like Alberta," meaning the dirtiest type of fossil fuel, extracted from tar sands. And then you say, “this is conflict-free oil.” I’m afraid, Mr. Governor, that Alberta’s tar sands oil is in no way conflict free.

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Mining Near Bryce Canyon: Who Benefits?

A decision by the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining to confirm a 2009 mining permit for Alton Coal Development is the best thing to have happened to the communities of southern Utah in some time—and the worst. It was a vindication of the thoroughness of Alton Coal’s proposal and a confirmation that the state is completely out of touch with modern values. The board stood up to badgering from extremist environmental groups and caved in to pressure from their wealthy friends in the mining industry. “The (Sierra) club is disappointed in the board for upholding the decision, but we plan to pursue every other avenue possible to stop the mine,” said Clair Jones, the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign spokesperson, in a response to the Aug. 3 decision. “The board’s decision to uphold the mine permit is a clear victory and will allow development to proceed in an environmentally responsible manner,” said Alton Project Manager Chris McCourt in a press release on the day of the decision. The environmental groups involved in the dispute are trying to stop any new mining in southern Utah, as usual. The mining company is trying to push the project forward while avoiding public scrutiny, as usual. The locals in favor of the mine have been cast as ignoramuses incapable of deciding where their best interests lie. What else is new?

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Transportation Secretary: Equal Treatment for Bikers and Walkers is an ‘American Agenda’

When Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced late last month a "sea change" at the department that would give biking and walking the same economic treatment as driving, he set off a storm of kudos from the alternative transportation community, but also an equally vehement response, a negative one, from parts of the business and automobile communities. It started when La Hood gave this address at the National Bike Summit (link opens YouTube video) then the department actually released a policy that stated, among other things, "The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments." On his blog, LaHood put it this way: "Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized. Today, LaHood again defends this position in a Q&A with the New York Times, by saying this is not a top-down directive -- it's a policy that has bubbled up from the American people themselves.

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