Today in New West news: ExxonMobil to pay $12M settlement over 2011 Yellowstone River spill, inaugural Twin Falls SANDWICHES Film Festival, and Wyoming heads back to court over wolf management plan.
Five years ago, an ExxonMobil Silvertip pipeline ruptured, spilling over 63,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River around Billings, Montana, prompting widespread public outcry. Cleanup efforts cost the company $135 million, as crews worked to clean oil as far as 70 miles downstream of the spill site.
Now, according to KTVQ, the company has announced a $12 million settlement with the state of Montana, prompting some regulators to say, “it’s about time.” From KTVQ:
“I’m pleased to announce a settlement with ExxonMobil Pipeline Corporation for $12 million dollars,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in front of a crowd at the Laurel Riverside Park. “Ensuring the people of Montana are compensated for the river’s injuries to the natural resources and subsequent economic impacts across the region.”
Prior to the settlement, federal regulators blamed ExxonMobil for a slow response.
Meanwhile, the company contested nearly $2 million in civil penalties.
The restoration plan in the settlement agreement outlines projects that compensate for damage done years ago.
“Just because we removed the oil, just because you can’t see it any longer, does not mean we have completely done our job,” said John C. Cruden, DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and National Resources Division.
The funding breaks down into 15 different projects, including restoring river function, fish passage, and recreation area improvements among others.
ExxonMobil pledged continued support of the improvements.
“We were committed to be here when it happened,” said company spokesman Dan Carter. “We were committed to follow through with it and we’re committed to making sure everything is right. So that’s the takeaway for us as a part of this.”
KTVQ adds officials will be holding a meeting Wednesday, October 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Fish Wildlife and Parks building in Billings Heights to discuss the restoration plans. You can read more about the plan here. Public comment is sought; you can submit comments by emailing them to NRDP@mt.gov with “Yellowstone Restoration Plan Comment” in the subject line.
Over in Idaho, according to Magic Valley, the lineup for the inaugural Twin Falls SANDWICHES Film Festival has been announced. SANDWICHES (Shorts, Animated films, New filmmakers, Diversity, Web series, International, Comedy, Horror, Experimental, and Student) will take place October 14 and 15 at the Orpheum Theatre in Twin Falls. Admission is $10 per screening and $25 for a festival pass. All told, according to festival director Ray Chao, 180 films were submitted from around the world; 29 projects made the final cut, 26 films and three shorts. The projects range from Twin Falls to Iran and Russia. From Magic Valley News:
“It was fairly competitive,” Chao said. “For our first year, we are very pleased with the quality of submissions.”
Chao is an actor and producer based in Los Angeles. He has been working with Katie Neff and Steve Kaminski — a Jerome couple who perform improv and act around the world — to bring the film festival to Twin Falls.
Three films in the festival have ties to Idaho.
Aaron Mitton, a Twin Falls filmmaker, will show his film “Devils Playground” at 3 p.m. Oct. 15. The film is about a woman who has experienced a recent tragedy and takes comfort in a friend in a similar situation. But she finds out he may be hiding a dark secret.
“A Man Takes a Drink” by Idaho filmmaker Adam McCoy is a four-minute film that will show at 7 p.m. Oct. 15.
“Ghost of a Chance” was filmed in Boise and is about a woman named Mary, found barely alive floating down a river. As she starts regaining her memory, she realizes her past life is a little more sinister than she expected. “Ghost of a Chance” will show at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15.
A screenplay table reading is at 11 a.m. Oct. 15, featuring actors reading the script of “Reckless Wheels,” a coming-of-age drama set in 1974 and inspired by Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon Jump.
Chao said eight filmmakers have confirmed they will attend and participate in question-and-answer segments after each screening.
Finally, over in Wyoming, according to the Casper Star Tribune, the state is heading to federal court Friday to make a case for its wolf management plan. Two years ago, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the Washington D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Wyoming’s proposed management plan—siding instead with a coalition of environmental groups. The state wishes the court to overturn Jackson’s decision while the environmental groups urge the court to retain protections. The decision may be months in the making. From the Tribune:
In her ruling, Jackson agreed with the Fish and Wildlife Service that wolves in the Northern Rockies had recovered. She also accepted the agency’s finding that wolves aren’t endangered or threatened within a significant portion of their range.
However, Jackson ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrong to trust nonbinding promises from the state of Wyoming to maintain at least 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pairs, outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
For two years before Jackson’s ruling, Wyoming had managed its own wolf population, declaring them unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most of the state and classifying them as trophy game animals subject to regulated hunting around the borders of Yellowstone National Park.
Tim Preso, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Montana, represents a coalition of groups that sued to overturn Wyoming’s wolf plan. He plans to argue at Friday’s hearing that federal protections for wolves should remain in effect.
“For wolves to be delisted in Wyoming, the state has to establish a management framework that will ensure that they aren’t driven back into an imperiled status,” Preso said Tuesday.
“Wyoming has elected to follow a path that is different from any other state in declaring wolves vermin that can be killed on sight in 83.5 percent of Wyoming,” Preso said. “That puts a lot of pressure on the management of wolves in the remainder to sustain the species.”
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Renny MacKay told the Tribune that, in the years trophy hunting was allowed, hunters regularly shot below the state’s quota, adding that more wolves were taken in “the predator zone.” MacKay argued the state’s plan “was in the best interest of wolves and the public.”
According to Wyoming Game and Fish records, there are 382 wolves in the state, with 30 breeding pairs. The report also notes that 2016 has been “a record year” for wolf depredation on livestock, prompting concern from the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.