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MSU, Montana State University

New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 19, 2016

Today in New West news: Montana State University reaches fundraising milestone two years early, coal in Carbon County, and RTD delays opening of G Line.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, over the last six years, Montana State University has raised has raised $308 million in funds—setting a fundraising record and surpassing the university’s goal two years early. From the Chronicle:

“It’s a big deal — it’s the biggest fundraising campaign in Montana, ever,” said Chris Murray, president and CEO of the MSU Alumni Foundation for the past two years. “We are so blessed to have so many people who care deeply about Montana State University.”

MSU President Waded Cruzado publicly launched the “What It Takes” fundraising campaign one year ago, setting a goal of raising $300 million by 2018, which will be the 125th anniversary of the university’s founding.

In the campaign’s September 2015 launch, MSU said it had already raised $180 million during the “quiet” phase and would seek to raise another $120 million.

Now the Bozeman campus has surpassed the original What it Takes target by raising more than $128 million in the past year.

MSU is counting toward its fundraising total all the major efforts Cruzado has successfully led during her nearly seven years in office: the campaign to raise $6 million in private donations for the $10 million End Zone upgrade at Bobcat Football Stadium, the $25 million donated by alumnus Jake Jabs to build a new College of Business building, the $50 million from alum Norm Asbjornson to build a new College of Engineering building, plus $20 million more raised for the ongoing South Campus project.

MSU is counting $30 million in cash donations from the past year, Murray said, as well as stock donations, pledges, grants and bequests in wills that will reach MSU in the future.

“She is certainly an amazing catalyst,” Murray said of Cruzado. “It’s alumni, friends and parents who have stepped forward to invest in MSU and its future. They’re the true heroes.

“They believe in our vision to provide a world-class education to everybody who wants one, who comes to MSU. It’s a simple idea but powerful.”

Nearly 23,000 donors have contributed to the campaign, MSU said. The foundation has also opened 12 new alumni chapters nationwide and added 3,000 new members.

Looking at Wyoming, it’s no secret coal has taken a beating in the Cowboy State, but it’s still very much a part of the state’s fabric—literally. Indeed, billions of tons of coal are still in the ground around the state, with the most noteworthy being in Carbon County, tantalizing coal proponents. But, as the Casper Star Tribune reports, for now, it’s unlikely said coal will ever see the light of day:

News that there are vast reserves of coal in southern Wyoming is hardly new. However, the U.S. Geological Survey is working on a study that will provide a more detailed analysis of just what lies beneath the surface and what portion of that could be worth mining.

The report is part of a three-part series on coal in the Upper Green River Basin. The first part, which focuses on the Little Snake River and Red Desert area, will likely come next year.

“The biggest takeaway from it will probably be the distance between the coal beds, the thickness of the coal beds, where they are located (and) where they can be surface mined versus where they would be underground mined,” said David Scott, a geologist working on the report.

There is about 6.4 billion tons of coal in the 2,300-square-mile study area, but only 10 percent of that is even being considered for its economic viability, he added.

“The numbers come down drastically once you start applying restrictions and economics to them,” Scott said.

How cheaply a company could mine the coal is a key issue, and one that has dogged Carbon County coal in the past. Small towns like Carbon and Hanna shrank in population after mining companies shut down.

Still, some see the report as good news, a reminder of a valuable resource waiting beneath the soil.

“I’d hope that it’d be developed,” said Rep. Don Burkhart, R-Rawlins. “The coal in Carbon County has a higher heating value than the coal in the Powder River basin. It’s good quality coal.”

Though federal regulations such as the Clean Power Plan are likely to put a damper on coal in the decades to come, there is still a place for coal in the U.S. electricity market, he said.

“If you look many years out, I think coal is still a viable energy producer and we need to stay on top of it,” he said.

Some have blamed the downturn in coal, at least in part, on the coal lease moratorium announced earlier this year, but as Rob Godby, director of the Energy Economics and Policies Center at the University of Wyoming, told the Tribune, “Nobody is running out of coal at their coal mines. Moratorium or not, there wouldn’t be a rush to buy reserves.”

Earlier this year, Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) announced its new A-Line between downtown and Denver International Airport was finally up and running. Later in the year, the RTD announced the opening of the B-Line between Denver and Westminster.

Both lines, heralded at the time, have apparently been beset with glitches. And according to the Denver Business Journal, those problems are delaying the unveiling of the RTD’s proposed G Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge:

RTD officials had said last year they expected to open the G line in October. Now they’re hoping to open the line “this fall,” which officially ends on December 20.

Genova said he expects the R line along I-225 through Aurora, which is being built by another contractor, to open in the “winter” of 2016. He said he expects to tell RTD’s board of directors next Tuesday the exact day the I-225 line will open.

On the A and the B line, to date, RTD has fined [Denver Transit Operators] $1.1 million because the problems with the gates that raise and lower at intersections to block cars and vehicles from crossing into the path of the oncoming train.

RTD also has reduced its monthly payments to DTO by a total of $298,342 for other problems related to performance.

DTP is a group of local and international companies that invested about $450 million money to help finance the $2.2 billion Eagle P3 project, the name of the project that includes construction and operation of the commuter rail A Line to the airport, the B Line to Westminster that opened in July, and the G Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge.

Genova noted that without the public-private partnership, RTD didn’t have enough money to build any of the lines — or the North Metro line slated to open in 2018, or the Southeast light rail extension into Douglas County.

RTD and DTO officials on Tuesday said the rail lines were safe, and Genova apologized “to our patrons for the inconveniences [the problems] have caused”

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