The Billings Outpost

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Railroad contradicts itself

I applaud The Billings Gazette for its investigation into the increasing rail traffic through Billings, but I’m confused by BNSF’s contradictory statements. A March 19 front-page article says that the delay of wheat shipments is due to increasing oil traffic, construction to accommodate the increase of Bakken oil shipped through Montana and weather.

In contradiction, BNSF spokesperson Steve Forsberg is quoted as saying that oil and coal shipments are not affecting grain shipments.

Really? In a public event on March 6, BNSF regional director of Public Affairs, Matt Jones, explained that BNSF has seen a major increase in Bakken oil rail traffic. Bakken oil production is up almost 300 percent over the last three years. The amount being transported by rail is nearly 70 percent in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2010.

Let’s add this up. A massive increase in oil production and associated transportation by rail, $5 billion in rail construction to accommodate the increased traffic — and grain shipments, not oil or coal are sitting on side rails for weeks at a time.

This gives the appearance that BNSF is picking winners and losers. Montana’s grain growers have been the backbone of Montana’s economy and culture for generations. They deserve better service and honesty from BNSF.

Larry Bean


Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:36

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The co-op difference

These are transformative times as many healthier food choices come to Billings. There are more selections from familiar grocery stores and even at new out-of-state chains. It’s a positive thing to broaden awareness and sharpen the conversation within this changing landscape of blurred lines and trendy marketing slogans.

Food co-ops have long been the leaders in this field of raising consciousness regarding genuine quality food. Co-ops were the first advocates for organics, local production, and improved growing practices.

I’ve been a co-op member for 35 years and it still amazes me just what a successful model of economics and social innovation they are. A billion people worldwide have joined member-owned, member-governed businesses that operate for the benefit of their members and communities.

Just one distinguishing, significant “co-op difference” is in creating healthier local economies and communities. Food co-ops generate more money for their local economy with 1.5 time more impact than conventional grocers. For 20 years the Good Earth Market has cultivated relationships with 140 local producers, now making up 25 percent our total sales volume.

“Healthy,” “local,” “community” are more than marketing slogans at Good Earth Market. Shop your values, share the fun at GEM, and keep more dollars in Billings.

Greg Jahn


Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:35

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Renewable energy pays

Last month Montana lawmakers continued working on an important study about the future of renewable energy in Montana. The Legislature’s Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC) has spent the last year analyzing the impact that our renewable energy standard has had on Montana’s economy, electricity bills, and environment. As long as they play by the rules, they will discover what we already know to be true – renewable energy has been a good deal for Montana ratepayers.

Montana enacted a renewable energy standard in 2005, requiring public utilities to add new renewable energy sources into their electricity portfolio. Today, the utilities are on track to meet those benchmarks while acquiring energy that is actually cheaper than traditional fossil fuel sources. 

The renewable energy standard is good policy because it reduces risk to ratepayers and lowers our electricity costs. In fact, new wind energy sources are one of the best deals for utilities. According to the Public Service Commission, wind energy from Judith Gap was significantly cheaper than sources from coal and even hydroelectric dams from 2009-11.

To the legislators studying the standard – help protect us from increasing electricity prices by developing more of Montana’s renewable resources, such as wind and solar. We all know that renewable energy has proven to be a good deal for Montana by diversifying our energy supply, creating new jobs across the state, cleaning up our air, and boosting our tax base. Let’s do more in the coming years.

Ed Gulick


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:57

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Wittich flees race

Sometimes, to defend poor choices, a man’s bravado has his mouth writing checks his butt can’t cash. This appears to have been the scenario facing Sen. Art Wittich in the final hours of filing for legislative office.

First, a history lesson: Wittich and his associates, while safely nestled in the warm embrace of Dark Money, have made it their mission to inform Republicans that primaries are good for the party. They justified this claim by stating that primaries have a uniquely “purifying” power that forces candidates to “own their vote.”

It seems an opponent was listening. On the final day of election signups, Wittich had the opportunity to put his hollow maxim to the test - to finally live by the words he preached. A primary loomed.

Nervous and caught unaware, Wittich began to ponder …

Maybe his singular dubious accolade, a stellar rating on Roger Koopman’s cherry-picked scorecard (TAB), didn’t have the star power envisioned?

Maybe the verdict on his failed leadership would haunt him? Would anybody actually believe the fable that his failure to lead was somebody else’s fault?

Maybe he feared that the voters would uncover his efforts to dismantle public education? Or his reference to volunteer school trustees as members of a “commie” club?

Or maybe, just maybe, it was the zero he received on the Montana University System scorecard? Bozeman is a university town and his constituents might find it unsettling that Sen. Wittich’s only support for the university was empty lip service.

By closing time, Senate Majority Leader Wittich had decided that an open discussion of his record, his leadership failure, and his looming legal troubles was a sure recipe for defeat. He disowned his principles and fled the primary to an uncontested House race. Can anyone say - hypocrite?

Rep. Jesse O’Hara

Great Falls

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:56

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Protect public lands

I recently read about Matt Rosendale’s plan to transfer federal lands to state control. This is a hugely problematic proposal. As a member of the Public Land/Water Access Association, I get concerned when people start fiddling around with public lands.

But there are other concerns here besides the prospect of losing public lands and that is the huge expense of maintaining federal land such road maintenance, fighting wildfires, and many other expenses that are now funded by the federal government. I expect there would be a tax hike here in Montana to care take these roughly 27 million acres. Many Montanans, including some of Rosendale’s challengers, have spoken out against Rosendale’s plan. We have to be very smart and cautious about any proposal that may end up with Montanans losing any of our public lands.  I hope voters will recognize a bad idea when they see one.

Colleen Jensen


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:54

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Treat everyone the same

You asked for help [Editor’s Notebook, April 17], well, here it is.  Concerning the sign “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” in the six states that I have lived in (California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Montana), this sign has always referred to people who were causing problems (drunk, disorderly, profane or generally causing a disturbance).

This is the first time in my 54 years on this planet that I’ve ever seen it applied to race, creed, color or sexual orientation. This new view here in Billings is quite disturbing. The view that I have stated has always been the accepted usage to anyone I’ve ever known, until now.

So here’s the help you asked for: If you want to work, own a business, or in any other way work with or for the public, everyone should be treated the same, or find a job that keeps you from the public. Otherwise it is just another form of oppression, bigotry and segregation.

Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago it was done due to your color, race, religion and social status. I don’t see any difference. Do you?

Robert Jackson


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:53

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