Big Sky Connection


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Eric Tegethoff

September 4, 2018

Helena, Montana - Montana environmentalists and outdoor recreation businesses are looking to hold new hard rock mining companies accountable for the messes they make. 

A measure on this November's ballot, Initiative 186, would require new hard rock mines to have detailed reclamation plans so that perpetual treatment of water pollution isn't necessary after the mine closes. 

Numerous defunct mines in the past have left Montana and taxpayers on the hook for cleanup. 

Montana Trout Unlimited is the primary backer of the coalition YES for Responsible Mining. The environmental group's executive director, David Brooks, says the state can't properly regulate the mines as the law stands now.

"Our Department of Environmental Quality does not have this tool," he points out. "We as a state cannot reject a mine permit simply because it's going to cause permanent water pollution and hence need expensive, long term or permanent water treatment."

Many state legislators have lined up against this measure, saying it will kill one of the state's largest economic drivers. 

The Montana AFLCIO also opposes it, saying it will prevent more mining jobs from being created in the state. 

Hard rock mining is the search for materials such as gold, silver and diamonds.

Brooks says it's important to note that it won't affect current mine operations or their future expansions. He says he understands that mining plays a vital role in the state's economy and that I-186 is not trying to kill the industry.

"This really continues to protect responsible mining in the state, and we all know that our current lifestyles depend on mining," he stresses. "We just think that it needs to be done right and there needs to be the right balance struck between mining and healthy rivers."

I-186 also has gained the support of the outdoor recreation industry, which is now the largest sector of Montana's economy. 

Brooks says the industry is backing this measure because outdoor recreation businesses rely on a clean environment.


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Tuesday, September 4, 2018 - Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh expected to face tough questioning today. Also on the Tuesday rundown: opponents

of the Dakota Access Pipeline march across Iowa; a debate over a $2 million dollar youth detention fence; and Latino communities rally in support of public



Big Sky Connection


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Eric Tegethoff

August 30, 2018

BILLINGS, Montana - Ranchers and cattle producers are throwing their weight behind a U.S. Senate bill that would temporarily stop mega-mergers in the agriculture sector. 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, would put a moratorium on farm and food business mergers until the U.S. Department of Justice more actively enforces anti-trust laws. 

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, which represents independent cattle producers and is headquartered in Billings, says a small number of meatpackers have so much control over the market that they are exploiting both producers and consumers.

"They're paying producers for less than what the competitive market would dictate and charging consumers whatever the market will bear," he points out. "We need to restore competition, and this bill is absolutely essential."

Four meatpackers control 85 percent of the beef market, 74 percent of pork and 54 percent of poultry, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Bullard says as meatpackers have consolidated, they've moved their operations to the Southwest, hurting cattle producers in Montana.

For the first time in decades, the Justice Department halted a merger in 2008 in the meatpacking industry, but hasn't stopped any mergers since. 

Bullard says two of the four meatpackers that control the vast majority of the market are Brazilian companies. He says these companies have been known to cut corners on food safety.

"This is just another example of how dominant meatpackers, when given the tremendous market control that they now possess, can use that control to maximize their profits, but on the backs of independent cattle producers and consumers," he states.

The Senate bill also would create the Food and Agriculture Concentration and Market Power Review Commission to review mergers and acquisitions.




Friday, August 31, 2018 - A California man arrested for making threats against the Boston Globe. Also on the Friday rundown: Gun-control advocates

push for stronger reforms in Florida; the passing of Sen. John McCain calls attention to cell phone radiation, and Minnesota fairgoers pony up for a bite

of the “First Kiss” apple.



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Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - Florida backs Trump in the GOP primary race for governor, and a big surprise on the Democratic side. Also on the

Wednesday rundown: Student homelessness skyrockets in Idaho; and an Illinois community searches for answers following a cancer-risk report.