July 14, 2017

Helena - On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Governor Steve Bullock and Lt. Governor Mike Cooney welcomed over 400 business leaders and entrepreneurs from across Montana to the 2nd annual Innovate Montana Symposium. The two-day event featured keynotes, workshops, and networking receptions to encourage business growth and increase economic opportunity and innovation in Montana.

“Montana is experiencing strong business and job growth, and our small business owners and entrepreneurs are the engines that drive our economy,” said Governor Bullock. “Hard work and innovation run through our veins here in Montana, and this event will showcase all the incredible work and new ideas being developed under the Big Sky.”

The Innovate Montana Symposium was held July 12 through July 13, 2017, in downtown Billings at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Northern Hotel, and Pub Station. The event highlighted the innovation of Montana’s small businesses and connects diverse industries with economic opportunity through informative panels, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities for attendees.

The Innovate Montana Symposium was launched by Governor Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project to bring business leaders across the state together to grow businesses, train and educate Montana’s workforce, increase economic opportunities and encourage innovation.


 

July 5, 2017

Gallatin County, Mont. Monday was a typical start of summer day.  Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Volunteers from all over Gallatin County going about their business, working or getting ready for a family day on the 4th.   At 6:03 P.M.  pagers go off for a rescue on the Castle Rock Trail just inside the Gallatin Canyon: a 29 year old man from Tennessee has collapsed on the trail.  Search and Rescue Deputies were the first to respond.  They are typically on duty and have skills to gather information, coordinate resources and direct the volunteers.  In this case the emergency was in an area where both responders from the Big Sky Division of Gallatin County Search and Rescue and the Valley Division were sent on the call, setting up a race of sorts where the patient is the winner.  Communications in that area of the county are poor and the Deputies have their hands full trying to gather information and communicate direction.  Rescuers from the Gateway Fire Dept. and AMR Ambulance arrive first and started up the trail.  The patient was stable but needed a ride down the trail and a trip to the hospital.  Now all they wait for is a wheeled litter, a kind of super stretcher with one big wheel designed for trail use.  There are several wheeled litters in the county but they are on trucks coming from the Fairgrounds and Big Sky.

Along comes Taylor Green, a young, fit, back country savvy veteran of SAR who owns Square One Welding & Fabrication at Four Corners.  For months now he has not been satisfied with the weight and stability of the wheeled litters used by SAR.  In his spare time he has been designing, engineering and fabricating a better one in his shop.   It just so happens his prototype was in his truck and he was closer than the Rescuers coming from Big Sky and the Valley.  Up the trail he and a couple other SAR volunteers go.  Light, easy to handle and suited for the trail, the new litter goes along on it’s first real deployment.  A little while later the Rescuers, patient and litter emerge from the trees.  The rescuers are smiling and so is the patient.

Big Sky Connection

Eric Tegethoff

June 30, 2017

HELENA, Mont. - National parks in Montana and across the country expect big crowds as Americans celebrate the Fourth of July and summer rolls on. 

But public-lands advocates are concerned about the combination of park maintenance backlogs that now total more than $11 billion - and plans to slash the National Park Service budget by nearly $400 million.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suggested privatizing campgrounds to help make up the shortfall. But Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, an energy-development watchdog group, says privatizing of government services usually leads to higher costs.

"It is in the interest of the private concessionaire to make as much money as they can," he says. "And when a lot of people are visiting these parks, they could probably afford to charge a pretty penny."

National parks, including Glacier National Park, set record highs for attendance last year. Saeger says hiking the costs to visit them will close parks off to some Americans.

The Trump Administration has also suggested opening up public lands to more oil and gas development, to boost national parks' coffers. Saeger disagrees that this would help.

"It is irresponsible to give free rein to oil and gas companies and special interests to develop these lands for profit, while at the same time making it harder for ordinary Americans to access an important part of our national heritage," he explains. 

Saeger says private companies already own oil and gas leases on millions of acres of public lands. They simply aren't acting on them because of historically low oil prices. He says the idea that lands in the West are closed off to fossil fuel development is false.

 

June 30, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Public Service Commission voted today to authorize a 10-year power purchase agreement for a proposed 80-megawatt solar farm near Billings at a rate of roughly $20 per megawatt hour. NorthWestern Energy would buy the power under the terms of the contract.

 

Federal law requires utilities to purchase generation from independent power producers like MTSUN LLC at what it would otherwise cost the utility to purchase the energy and capacity provided by the facility. If a utility and a developer are unable to agree on a price and contract terms, the law requires the PSC to step in.

 

“The law does not allow the commission to incentivize one form of energy over another,” said Commissioner Tony O’Donnell, R-Billings. “Our charge is to set the price at a level that is neutral to the ratepayer.”

 

The Commission’s ruling on Thursday was largely consistent with its decision last week.

 

In limiting contracts to 10 years, the Commission agreed with the Montana Consumer Counsel (MCC), which argued that the PSC should protect customers from the “excessive risk” of long-term contracts.

 

MCC economist Jamie Stamatson argued that the methodology used to calculate a price within a 25-year contract was too speculative. In testimony submitted to the Commission, he said the Commission should instead rely on “established forward strip prices, where market participants have made actual transactions based on their expectations of future prices.”

 

Like it did last week, the Commission also voted to impose symmetrical treatment on other resources of NorthWestern. In related news, on Wednesday, NorthWestern announced that it is suspending a solicitation targeted primarily at natural gas assets. That process had called for 20-year contracts at a minimum.

 

“Customers should not be paying for things they do not need,” said Vice Chairman Travis Kavulla, R-Great Falls. “Whether it is solar or gas, the Commission is questioning the wisdom of locking customers into a decades-long arrangement at a time when the market is already oversupplied.”

 

The Commission also decided to eliminate a carbon price adder from rates paid to MTSUN, citing a shift in federal policy related to carbon emissions.

 

“A price on carbon dioxide is more unlikely now, than ever, and customers shouldn’t be on the hook for carbon costs that may never materialize,” said Commissioner Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman.

 

To view the full docket, visit: http://bit.ly/2sliBxw

 

###

 

 

June 27, 2017

Billings, MT – Hosted by the Yellowstone Art Museum–Summerfair is the region’s largest arts and crafts festival featuring the best artisans, craftspeople, and entertainers in the area. More than 90 artists, community groups, and food vendors will participate in the YAM’s 39th Annual Summerfair at Veterans Park, 13th Street West & Poly Drive, next to Rocky Mountain College. This exciting event attracts more than 10,000 people and is a wonderful way to share the joy of art with friends and family while supporting the museum’s education programs and yearly operating costs.

Admission for Summerfair is $3 for adults, FREE for children 12 and under.

A new Summerfair Eve Friday evening event will begin the Summerfair weekend featuring live music by The Max, playing from 5-9 p.m.

Artist booths at Summerfair include painting, pottery, art from nature, glass, wood, metal, fiber art, photography, body products, and artisan foods.  Summerfair is a great place to find that unique gift for yourself or someone special while supporting the Billings Community.

This year, Summerfair will have artist demonstrations and entertainment beginning at 10 am. All weekend, you can visit the Prairie Hand Spinners at the demonstration booth to see the age-old craft of wool being spun into yarn. Watch the progression of graffiti art by Underground Culture Krew.  View the work of world-renowned wood carver Nick Lamb. Billings Arts Association’s Plein Air artists will be showing the art of painting from life and much more.

Saturday on the entertainment stage enjoy performances by the Billings Youth Orchestra Fiddlers, Spiral Skies Bellydance, Chris and the Side Guys and more. On Sunday enjoy performances by Ryan Kabeary, Broadway Dance Studio, Mojo and more. NOVA: Center for the Performing Arts will be doing a performance from School of Rock on Saturday and Sunday.

You and your children can enjoy and learn about art with hands-on art activities. Participate both Saturday and Sunday in the fun, free art projects under the Children’s Art Activity Tent.

When you’re ready to eat, Summerfair has a fantastic food court with hotdogs and burgers, gyros, crepes, lemonade, kettle corn, snow cones, and more. All proceeds from refreshments purchased at the Beer and Wine Garden and Refreshments tents will benefit the Yellowstone Art Museum. So come on down and enjoy this fantastic event the whole family can enjoy!

For more information visit http://www.artmuseum.org/special-events/summerfair/