The Billings Outpost

Colstrip sued for pollution


HELENA – The Colstrip coal plant is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed this month. The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Sierra Club filed the case, alleging the plant emits too much pollution and requesting fines of more than $37,000 a day. The case is based on the federal Clean Air Act. 

Anne Hedges, MEIC program director, said the pollution is not new. She explained that when modifications are made to older plants, they are supposed to be upgraded for better pollution control and go through a permitting process.

“This is a case we have been investigating for years,” she said, “finding that all four units at the facility have been modified in a way that required them to go through a permitting process, and they did not do so.”

The owners of Colstrip have stated that changes at the plant were routine maintenance, and therefore it was not required to be upgraded for pollution control under the Clean Air Act.

According to Hedges, the intent of requiring pollution controls is not only to protect public health, but also to even the playing field with newer coal plants that have to, by law, install pollution controls. 

“They can do better,” she said. “Other facilities are doing better, and we want them to do better, too.”

Puget Sound Energy is the largest owner of Colstrip, but other companies are also being charged in the case, including Avista, Portland General Electric, Northwestern Energy and Pennsylvania Power and Light.The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Seattle.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:04

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Tribal members honored in traditional arts

Jay Old Mouse, left, and Birdie Real Bird have honored for maintaining traditional skills

Whether a traditional Cheyenne courting flute or a bamboo fly-rod, the work created by the most recently endorsed Montana Circle of American Masters reflects its Montana connections and helps to deepen an awareness of what it means to be Montanan.

In December, the Montana Arts Council added to its distinguished roll of Montana’s Circle of American Masters (MCAM) in the Visual Folk and Traditional Arts by endorsing a bamboo fly-rod maker, a leather artist, a creator of traditional Cheyenne flutes, a Crow beadworker, and a bowyer. These five artists join the roll call of other Montana folk and traditional artists whom the program has honored.

Jay Old Mouse, of Lame Deer, is considered by the Northern Cheyenne people to be the designated keeper and maker of the Cheyenne courting flute. The Cheyenne courting flute was handed down to him through the lineage of known keepers, from Turkey Legs in the late 1800s, to Grover Wolf Voice, then to his grandfather Black Bear and now to Old Mouse. The honor and the flute-making skills were bestowed on him when he was in his early 20s by his grandfather with a long list of cultural protocols to follow.

Old Mouse was a certified carpenter at the time he became the keeper and to this day, he uses the historical methods and protocols in making and playing the flute. The courting flute was originally used by a male suitor to attract a mate. It is also used in prayer, as a source of social entertainment, to honor individuals at events like funerals and birthdays, and as a tool to alleviate suffering. Old Mouse follows his grandfather’s teachings and plays when asked at funerals, graduations, in schools, in church and at weddings.

Because of his commitment to the protocols handed down to him and to providing comfort to his community through his performances, Old Mouse is highly regarded in his community. He is also concerned about teaching both natives and non-natives about the significance of the Cheyenne courting flute.

To teach about the flute, he has presented at Cheyenne Frontier Days,

the National Folk Festival in Butte, the Cheyenne Immersion Camp, American Indian Heritage day at Miles City Community College, the American Indian Housing Initiative at Penn State, and for 20 years for the Cheyenne Trailriders international guests.

Birdie Real Bird, who is a member of the Crow tribe from Garryowen, was raised on the reservation in a traditional family. Known throughout Montana for her exquisite beading projects and dolls, she comes from a long line of beading artists and learned to bead watching those elders work on projects. As she grew up, she began beading more complex projects under the tutelage of her grandmother.

While Real Bird was growing up, she and her grandmother sold beadwork medallions to the wives of the employees at the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Indian Health Services to get gas money; and in college, she made and sold beaded jewelry. She uses correct Crow traditional designs and colors in her work, but when she travels she looks for examples of Plains Indian beadwork in museum collections. Her dolls, which reflect everyday dress styles worn by her mother Lucy Real Bird, are in numerous collections, including the Smithsonian Museum.

A retired middle school teacher, Real Bird now devotes most of her time to beading and teaching traditional Crow culture. She speaks at reservation schools where she shares information about traditional dress, tells stories, teaches language, native games and beading. In her work, she explains the significance of cradleboards and dolls to Crow culture, helping students realize the connections between the Crow, Yellowstone Park and their own community.

She also works with the Montana Historical Museum, OPI, and the Montana Arts Council and has demonstrated beading at events like the National Folk Festival in Butte.

In addition, artists endorsed for the Montana Circle of American Masters this winter are Glenn Brackett of Butte, who is widely considered to be one of the preeminent bamboo flyfishing rod builders of the current era; leather artist Howard Knight of Stevensville, who has collaborated with bootmaker Lisa Sorrell and other many other artisans; and Jim Rempp, a Missoula bowyer whose bows are coveted by both archers for use and collectors for display.

The Montana Circle of American Masters is a Montana Arts Council program designed to honor Montana’s rich heritage and to showcase the present day vitality of the folk arts.

For inclusion in this program, an individual must be a practicing visual folk artist and have a valid Montana address. Any Montanan who knows an eligible artist and wants to recommend him or her for inclusion in the Circle of American Masters is encouraged to visit the MAC website ( and download the guidelines and nomination form.

For more information about the program or for help in the nomination process, contact Cindy Kittredge, folk arts and market specialist, at (406)468-4078, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 March 2013 16:09

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Flu restrictions lifted

RiverStone Health and Unified Health Command partners Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare are seeing a decline in the number of reported influenza cases in recent weeks and have lifted visitor restrictions in hospitals; however, restrictions in the neo-natal intensive care units (NICU) remain in place.

Restrictions were implemented after the first of the year as part of a community effort to prevent and control the spread of respiratory disease.

“While it’s too early to say definitively that the influenza season has peaked, we have noticed a significant decline in reported influenza cases in recent weeks. Because of this decline, we have lifted visitor restrictions in hospitals,” said John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer and RiverStone Health president and chief executive officer. “This year’s influenza season has out-paced last year’s with more than 750 reported cases of influenza compared to last year’s total 119 reported cases.”

Visitors under the age of 18 years will now be permitted in hospitals. However, it is always a good idea to refrain from visiting individuals in healthcare facilities when visitors are experiencing symptoms and signs of illness.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:43

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Fact or fiction? Dealing with driving myths


This question came from Ed in Billings during a recent AARP Driver Safety course:
Q: My 83-year-old father and I have an ongoing “friendly feud” about whether or not we should be changing our oil every 3,000 miles. Do you have any info that can help settle this once and for all?
A: Many widespread beliefs about safe driving rules are tried and true, such as buckle up, always come to a complete stop and use your turn signal. But some of the best driving practices are trickier. For example, how often do you need to change your oil? Is it really every 3,000 miles as many of us have been told time and time again?
Over the years, technological advances, crash simulators and expert analysis have debunked many common driving myths. However, many of us are still operating under the assumptions we learned when we first got behind the wheel.
AARP Driver Safety sheds light on three common driving myths and mistakes, to help you stay safe on the road – and save on unnecessary expenses.
• Myth 1: Change your oil every 3,000 miles. While vehicle maintenance is critical to driver safety, you no longer need to change your oil diligently at the 3,000-mile mark.
Modern engines and synthetic motor oils have changed the frequency with which you need to change your oil. Most cars need a change between 5,000 and 10,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual to determine how long your vehicle should go between changes.
• Myth 2: Warm up your car before driving. When the weather outside is frightful, many of us crank on our car engines for a few minutes before getting on the road.
Although it may make the interior of your car nice and toasty, “warming up” your car in winter has no technical benefits. According to the Discovery Channel, modern vehicles are equipped to start in cold temperatures, and idling for less than a minute before driving is sufficient. Idling for longer wastes fuel and can cause unnecessary wear and tear on your engine.
• Myth 3: Fill up with premium every once in a while. While most of us stick to unleaded fuel, some may believe that it is a good idea to fill up your tank with a higher octane fuel every now and then because it is cleaner and will make your car run more smoothly. But thanks to mechanical advancements, using high octane fuel is an unnecessary expense for most modern vehicles. Engines run based on the controlled explosion of gasoline and, back in the day, gasoline would occasionally explode at the wrong time. According to the Discovery Channel, this caused the car to have poor timing and run irregularly.
Higher octane fuel was invented to overcome this problem, but modern cars have gone a step further. Nowadays, a knock sensor prevents gasoline from combusting at the wrong time, so depending on your vehicle’s make and model, you may no longer need to fill up with more expensive fuel ... ever!
Myth 4: Red cars get more speeding tickets. There are many rumors about car color and its effect on things like car accidents and speeding tickets. For example, black cars are thought to be more likely to be involved in accidents at night because they are harder to see, and drivers with red cars supposedly get pulled over more often than others — perhaps because they are more eye-catching or because the color incites speeding. According to a study by, drivers of gray cars actually garnered more speeding tickets than other vehicle colors. White cars received fewer speeding tickets than they should have based on vehicle population, and red cars received no more speeding tickets than any other group.
For more tips on how to stay safe on the road, consider taking a driver improvement course, such as the AARP Driver Safety course, available in a classroom or online.  In Montana you are eligible for an insurance discount upon completion of the course.
For more information, visit or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).

Do you have a question for AARP Montana? Send your question to “Ask AARP Montana” at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 30 W 14th St., Helena, MT 59601 or call our toll-free hotline at 1-866-295-7278.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:42

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Tax training provided

Department of Revenue

The Montana Department of Revenue provides assistance on individual income tax matters through its Internet website, call center, and statewide local offices. But did you know that they also have an income tax specialist who will offer state side training for the volunteers that enter tax returns?

Brian Olsen has been traveling the state of Montana for eight years, meeting with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) folks and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to train the volunteers who assist the primarily elderly and/or lower income citizens of Montana with their tax returns.

In addition to training the volunteers on tax preparation, Mr. Olsen also meets with paid tax preparers and accountants to go over law changes, rule changes and any recent legal decisions.

He typically trains in Helena, Billings, Butte, Missoula, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Bozeman, but has been known to make a side trip to a smaller area if he happens to be nearby, such as stopping in Stevensville after providing training in Missoula.

When asked why he performs this onsite training, he said, “I like that it brings questions to us that the tax preparers see. The face-to-face interaction is great!”

For questions, or to discuss these training sessions with Brian Olsen, contact him at (406) 444-2994 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:40

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Top 5 ways to add value when selling home

(StatePoint) Selling a home in today’s aggressive marketplace can be challenging. The good news is there are a few tweaks that can give homeowners a serious leg up on the competition.

With the warmer months being the most active time of year to buy and sell real estate, it’s important to ensure your home is seen in the best light possible.

“Despite the influx of homes for sale this season, the process of buying and selling a home can be simple, efficient and enjoyable,” says Wendy Froehlich of, one of the nation’s top online real estate listing and lifestyle resources.

According to, the top five projects that improve home equity are:

Bathrooms: If adding an additional bathroom isn‘t an option, upgrade existing ones.

Adding a dual vanity to a master or secondary bath improves functionality, allowing multiple people to use the space. Change out fixtures like faucets and shower doors to increase aesthetic appeal. If you’re on a budget, replace light fixtures or switch plates to help refresh the space.

When working with a small space, highlight storage options with shelving and update or remove wall decor, paint or wallpaper.

Kitchen: Kitchen renovations can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 and more. If that’s not in your budget, upgrading cabinetry and paint does wonders to liven up even the most outdated spaces.

Add crown or decorative molding to “shape out” the kitchen cabinets and modernize the space. Repaint cabinets, or add new hardware to add visual interest and brighten dark spaces.

Outdoor Spaces: Curb appeal adds immediate interest to any home’s exterior. According to Remodeling Magazine, improving outdoor spaces can increase a home’s resale value dollar-for-dollar.

Frame the front walkway with items that add visual interest, like flowers, potted plants, large rocks of various sizes and solar-powered lights. If yard space is scarce, hanging plants are another great, low-cost option.

Extend outdoor projects to the backyard – power-wash decks or patios and clean screened-in areas.

Basement: Basement improvements can optimize livable space and protect the home from extreme weather, mold, moisture damage and mites. Whether transitioning the basement to a home gym, office or family room, the basics remain the same: insulate well and waterproof.

Maximize space by including shelving and storage units. If the opportunity exists, make the space feel open and inviting by creating an open stairwell, a trick that visually connects the upper part of the house with the lower, and filters natural light into the space.

Mudroom: Mudrooms ensure families stay clutter-free and have a dedicated space to drop stuff as they come through the door. They can also make potential homeowners feel welcome upon entry.

While knocking out a wall to create a mudroom is expensive and labor-intensive, you can make a “drop zone” by simply anchoring a bench to an empty wall and hanging labeled storage units.

Making homes stand out in a sea of real estate listings isn’t always easy. More tips can be found at

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 18:10

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Windows can add safety

(StatePoint) Whether you’re making a fast trip to the store or leaving on a two-week vacation, are you confident that locking your doors is enough to keep your home safe and secure?

You can go a step further by investing in impact-resistant laminate glass in your windows, according to experts. Engineered to deter forced entry by intruders, these energy-efficient windows also resist high winds and flying debris during severe storms and reduce unwanted outside noise from entering your home.

Similar in design to impact-resistant glass found in code-driven coastal area homes, special laminated glass known as SafePoint glass offers extra protection for homes, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

“This glass is designed to help make a home a safe haven,” says Ken Kubus of Simonton Windows. “In addition to helping protect the home, laminated glass provides excellent energy efficiency and serves as a barrier against heat transfer. It also plays a role in lowering heating and cooling costs while keeping interiors comfortable. And it screens out much of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays that can damage carpets, furnishings and artwork.”

There are several other things homeowners can do to help keep their families safe at home — especially when it comes to windows:

Children should be taught at a young age to stay away from windows for their own safety.

Parents can help safeguard children by keeping furniture (including cribs) and anything else a child can climb, away from windows.

If your home has double hung windows, open only the top part of the window that children cannot reach, to allow for ventilation.

Never push on window screens, as they will not support the weight of a child or family pet. Remember, the primary purpose of a screen is to keep insects outside.

Lock windows when not in use to protect against intruders and make it more difficult for curious children to open windows.

Do not paint or nail windows shut. Every window in the home that is designed to be opened should be operational in case of an emergency.

Refrain from nailing or attaching decorative lights to the interior or exterior of window frames.

Plant shrubs or grass, and place “soft landscaping” like bark or mulch, directly underneath windows to help lessen the impact should someone accidentally fall out of a window.

More window safety tips are available by calling 1-800-SIMONTON to request a free copy of a booklet entitled, “A few things to think about when thinking about your home.”

From planning emergency escape routes to installing safe doors and windows, there are many different things you can do to help keep your family safe at home even when you are not there to protect them.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 18:09

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37th MATE show expected to draw thousands

The 37th annual MATE Show and Home & Health Expo will kick off on Thursday, Feb. 14, at MetraPark in Billings and run through Saturday, Feb. 16.

Doors are open each day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for Saturday when the show closes at 5 p.m. More than 350 exhibitors will be displaying their products in over 700 booths covering over 100,000 square feet, making it the largest show of this kind in Montana.

The MATE Show is the flagship component of the event. It features the latest farming and ranching equipment, products and services.

This year’s featured product will be the UTV or “Side-by-Side.” Demonstrations from a variety of vendors selling UTV’s will offer brief demonstrations on their respective products.

Other added events include the Bull Pen Preview presented by Northern Ag Network and KGHL Radio as well as the MATE Theater with a variety of educational classes eligible for applicator certification.

Additionally, there will also be several presentations offered on issues of key importance to the agriculture industry. MATE Show attendees will have the opportunity to enter a grand prize drawing for a John Deere X360 Lawnmower donated by John Deere and participating dealers.

The Home & Health Expo continues to expand, providing a variety of booths, services, and several additional screenings for all areas of human health and home improvement. The Home & Health Stage will provide several educational sessions.

A show has something of interest for anyone. This year’s Grand Prize of the Home & Health Expo is a Club Cadet 524WE Snow Blower sponsored by Titan Rental of Billings.

CPR Saturday will again be a feature during this year’s show (Saturday) offering attendees an opportunity to brush up on their CPR training or get certified. Registration can be done or by calling 406.255.8410.Free tickets to this year’s MATE Show and Home & Health Expo are available at the NILE office, First Interstate Bank locations, and from all MATE Show exhibitors.

For a complete list of events, vendors, and map of the 2013 MATE Show and Home & Health Expo, go

The Montana Agri-Trade Exposition (MATE Show) and the Home & Health Expo are owned by the Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE).The MATE is held the third week of February and has a three-day attendance of more than 14,000 people.

The NILE is a nonprofit organization established in 1967 that is dedicated to the promotion of livestock, agriculture education and respect of the western tradition.

For more information contact the NILE office at 406-256-2495 or visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:51

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Training offered in CPR

CPR Saturday will offer free CPR training classes on Feb. 16 at the Exhibit Hall (arena floor level) at MetraPark.

CPR training classes will be offered throughout the day between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Certification courses will be offered at 8:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. for a $40 fee.

CPR is an emergency lifesaving procedure used to revive someone who has stopped breathing or whose heart has ceased functioning. CPR uses heart massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to get the heart or lungs working again.

Between 75 percent to 80 percent of all sudden cardiac arrests happen at home, so being trained to perform CPR can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one.

Sudden cardiac arrest results in the deaths of more than 650 adults and children each day in the United States.

CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival.

Survival of sudden cardiac arrest can be as high as 90 percent if treatment is administered within 4-6 minutes of the arrest.

On average, only 24.7 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims receive CPR.

If bystander CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival fall 7 percent to 10 percent for every minute of delay until defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation are successful if CPR and defibrillation are not provided within minutes of collapse. With the proper knowledge and tools, everyone can save a life.

Register today to learn CPR by calling (406) 255-8410 or (800) 252-1246 or register online at

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:50

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Kidney TRUST at MATE show


Sure, we might recall from high school anatomy that we have two of them, their function is to filter waste products and excess water from our blood, and that beloved staple of chili-making, the kidney bean, is named for its similarity in shape to the vital organ.

But when it comes to our own kidneys, how can we tell if they are truly doing an effective job of keeping us healthy? Thanks to new exhibitor, The Kidney TRUST, attendees of the 2013 Home and Health Expo will have the opportunity to ask just that.

The Kidney TRUST is an independent non-profit organization that was founded in 2006 by leading U.S. kidney care provider, DaVita Inc. It aims to benefit the 31 million Americans currently suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and was founded on the notion that “everyone should be empowered to take an active role in their health.”

The TRUST aims to assist in reducing the progression of CKD by providing free, rapid screening in non-medical settings across the country, as well as by providing financial assistance to those affected by the disease. “Kidney health is not something people think about,” said Program Developer Gloria Upchurch, “My goal, as program developer, is to educate as many people as we possibly can.”

What makes kidney health screening so important? According to Ms. Upchurch, “Out of the 31 million Americans with chronic kidney disease, only about 10 percent know they have it.” The Kidney TRUST has caught onset diabetes in several states where they have done past screenings, and the primary risk factors are nearly always present.

Before attendees have their blood drawn for screening, they are required to fill out a form indicating any potential risk factors such as family history, tobacco use and ethnicity. People with African American, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American descent are among the most susceptible.

Home and Health Expo attendees will find the Kidney TRUST at booth 634 in the Montana Pavilion. Kidney Screenings are absolutely free and take five to seven minutes to receive results.

, which may be shared with the patients’ primary physician. To learn more about the Kidney TRUST, visit and for more information about the Home and Health Expo, including a complete list of vendors,

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:49

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