The Billings Outpost

No to Otter Creek coal

Anyone concerned with increased train traffic, expanded West-coast ports, or the industrialization of eastern Montana should cross their fingers and hope that the Department of Environmental Quality decides not to permit the mining of Otter Creek coal.

The Otter Creek mine is the largest proposed coal mine in the lower 48 states. Though the coal is located in southeastern Montana, it is destined for Asian countries where cleaner energy sources are not yet in high demand.

For transportation purposes, the mine’s approval would strongly influence the construction of the Tongue River Railroad and the expansion of various ports along the Pacific Coast. Though presented to the public as three separate projects, the development of the Otter Creek mine, the construction of the Tongue River Railroad, and the expansion of West Coast ports are interconnected undertakings. These three destructive projects are actually segments of a larger strategy for out-of-state coal companies to make money by convincing Montana agencies to allow our state to become a coal colony for China.

If Otter Creek Valley is overrun by Arch Coal, Montanans will suffer the endless effects of air pollution, aquifer depletion, property value loss and misdirected tax dollars. Eastern Montana’s most prosperous agricultural region should not be sacrificed for temporary corporate gain. The hazardous implications associated with private and public agencies’ elaborate plan to mine and transport Otter Creek coal are not worth the risks.

I hope state agencies set higher standards for the uses of Montana’s natural resources.

Mary Ellen Wolfe

Bozeman

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:37

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Background checks in place

In the May 9 edition there was a letter keyed “improve safety” on which I would like to comment. To buy a firearm from a dealer at a gun show, the dealer has to have a federal firearms license and the purchaser is given a background check according to statute.

Fifty or more percent of those buying space at gun shows are selling items ranging from needlework to helicopters. A background check is not needed to buy these items.

To legally purchase a firearm from the internet, the weapon must be shipped to a dealer with an FFL, who then charges a varying amount to call in the background check before the weapon is released. It is safe to say that in any legal transaction involving firearms and dealers, a background check is mandatory.

If the transaction is between individuals, a background check is useless because criminals are hardly concerned with background checks as they steal their firearms or get them from the black market.

I fail to see where more laws on background checks are going to improve gun safety or stop illegal sources of firearms. The government is not enforcing the laws already on the books so more laws would just sit there also.

How are more laws regarding background checks going to improve safety?  The law-abiding citizens who go through the background checks are not those who cause problems with guns. As far as “gun nuts” go, I suppose the British thought the colonists were gun nuts as well as they were fighting for their liberty and as we know the major cause of the Revolutionary War was the king’s attempt to disarm the colonists.

Congress was astute enough to realize that more  background laws would be an exercise in futility. And let’s not even talk about gun trafficking!

Keith Babcock

Lockwood

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:36

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Prison programs ineffective

Kim Gillan [Outpost, April 25] was very selective about her choice of responses. Ever the politician (ex, that is), remember she is a grant writer with a successful track record.

She missed several key points of my letter [April 4], including the daily abuse and discrimination against female inmates. She can pump all the cash she wants into the Montana Women’s Prison, but until she recognizes the sexual discrimination rampant in the prison, such cash is a waste of taxpayers’ money and will never alleviate the problems she claims to seek to alleviate.

For example, the men at the Montana State Prison have the ranch, dairy farm, furniture factory, a gift shop, a wide range of profitable hobby opportunities, cottage industry handicrafts and even online sales. On the other hand, the women have none of these.

Most, if not all, of the programs Gillan refers to for the women have been discontinued.

In fact, last year the computer lab was closed because a female inmate committed forgery and had unlawful online contact via the computer lab. She learned her computer skills at Montana State University Billings.

All of the sexual traumatic experience techniques are totally worthless. For instance, the TAMAR program was created for sexually molested young girls (but it is used for sex offenders as well). Page 54 lists 62 self-soothing techniques, including star gazing, calling 800 numbers (to hear human voices), lighting scented candles, walking in the park, drinking hot cocoa and taking bubble baths. Page 53 is similar with another 62 suggestions (useless to inmates) on how to heal past sexual trauma.

But my favorite suggested distraction technique instructs prisoners to experience the sensation of sex. This distraction technique clearly conflicts with the program’s overall intent. The obvious conflict is further advertised in the staff instructions to balance out distraction techniques with the class designed for male sex offenders.

With the legislative session’s end, the Montana Senate’s Law and Justice Committee will begin work on two approved bills: 1) to study the overall effectiveness of the parole board itself and 2) to conduct a thorough review of the operations of the entire Montana Department of Corrections.

My hope is that the committee will address the gender bias and discrimination against women as well as sexual misconduct committed by the prison staff. All of these offenses occurred on Kim Gillan’s watch as Montana senator and as an official representative of MSU Billings.

How much taxpayer money paid her to further dead-end failures of programs that contradict their own ends?

May Simmons

Billings

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:35

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Cheaper to save energy

The Empire State Building, constructed in 1931, has recently undergone a comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit. It now uses 38 percent less energy than it did a few years ago. The owners invested $20 million in improvements, and the building now saves $4.4 million per year in utility costs. That’s a 4.6 year payback, equal to a return on investment of 22 percent. That far out-competes almost anything in the stock market, and it’s far less risky.

What can we learn from this?

1. Existing buildings can be retrofitted into high performance buildings.

2. There are significant opportunities for reducing energy use in this country for roughly 25 percent of the cost of building new power plants.

3. We can reduce climate emissions considerably in this country at a profit. Energy efficiency is probably the best investment that can be made.

4. It is foolish for anyone to even consider investing in coal, particularly given the healthcare and climate change costs it imposes on society.

A national energy policy that has energy efficiency as its foundation does more to create jobs, reduce dependency on foreign energy, improve our environment, and preserve our nation’s financial resources than any other approach.

If that makes sense to you, please let your government representative know.

Ed Gulick

Billings

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:34

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Changes needed in county

In March, Commissioner Bill Kennedy suggested that Yellowstone County consider changing the structure of its government from a three-member partisan commission to a five member non-partisan commission. Such an idea certainly has its merits and is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, it ran into stiff opposition from the other two commissioners. In a system where only two votes constitute a majority, Commissioner Kennedy’s one vote was insufficient.

To me, this very issue illustrates the weakness of the present system. Where all other levels of national, state and local government as well as corporations (both for profit and, especially, not-for-profit) have a system where legislative, policy-making functions are separate from executive, administrative functions, Yellowstone County clings to an archaic and unfair system.

Not only are the policy makers the same as the administrators, the fact that there are only three challenges the American ideal of fairness and equal representation in government.

Yellowstone County has more than 145,000 people and a budget of $40 million. All management decisions, whether crucial or routine, can be made by only 2 people

Regardless of the issue – whether it is how our taxes are spent, whose voices are to be considered as important or what we will do to prepare for the future - the decision making process should involve fair representation.

While Commissioner Kennedy’s lone voice ran into a brick wall of opposition, there are other ways to make changes. Most notable is the referendum process outlined in the Montana State Constitution.

Don Reed

Lockwood

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:53

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Strange will be missed

Aron Strange (Feb. 2, 1947, to April 21, 2013), who passed away April 27, 2013, was a leading musician in the Montana Old Time Fiddlers Association, District Four, since the late ’70s.

He was part of the formation of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Organization at its beginning. Aron founded the Musicians Rendezvous in 1990 at Itch Kep Pe Park at Columbus, Montana, on the banks of the Yellowstone.

Aron was a favorite bass player at Doc Ellison’s Picknic and Jam Session the first week in August and then the next week at Itch Kep Pe Park.

Aron was a fine guitar player and singer. And his string bass playing was as good as you could find in the bluegrass pickin’ circles.

With his signature hat, “at times hung on the bass,” and a glance you knew there was some fine music going on there.

Join us for a celebration of Aron’s life Aug. 10 at Itch Kep Pe Park.

James O. Southworth

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:52

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