The Billings Outpost

Bottles of Uberbrew hit grocery shelves


Uberbrew recently became the second Billings brewery to put six packs of its beer on retail shelves.

The Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. has been doing so for years with a bottling operation attached to its brewery at 2123 First Ave. N.

Uberbrew owners Mark Hastings and Jason Shroyer are going a bit different route — having their popular White Noise hefeweizen bottled at the Fort Collins Brewery in Colorado.

“I know these guys so well now,” Shroyer said. “They’re amazing.”

He has gained that knowledge by driving down to Fort Collins every two weeks for the past four months. In fact, his pickup was in the shop last week, after Shroyer, headed home from Colorado, ran into a couple of deer on the icy highway outside Sheridan, Wyo.

Six packs of White Noise went on sale late last month, starting out with some local stores that included Albertsons, Good Earth Market and Lucky’s Market. The list has been gradually expanding, thanks to Intermountain Distributing.

“They’ve really opened some doors for us,” Shroyer said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 12:45

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Declaring war on fracking - Speakers call for focus on renewables


By WILBUR WOOD - For The Outpost

Pummeling the concept of a “War on Coal,” Tyson Slocum says, “The real war is a War on Renewable Energy” – and so begins the first of four panel discussions at Northern Plains Resource Council’s 43rd annual meeting on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Crowne Plaza in Billings.

Slocum directs the energy program for Public Citizen, a nonprofit citizen advocacy group founded in 1971 and based in Washington, D.C., which “advocates for a healthier and more equitable world by making government work for the people.” He asserts that the war against renewable energy, and energy efficiency, is coupled with a War on Consumers. Our power bills, he says, pay to “keep uncompetitive, centralized, polluting energy systems afloat and decentralized renewables like solar and windpower off the market.”

Keynote speaker Helen Slottje ends the last panel of the day with the same message: “We know we can create enough clean energy to solve our energy problems. What we need to develop is the political will.”

‘No fracking’

Slottje, who is profiled in this issue by Stephen Dow, was here to talk about how she and her husband, David, both attorneys who run their own nonprofit public interest law firm, spent four years traveling from town to town in upstate New York with a strategy for cities and towns to use local zoning powers to keep fracking — hydraulic fracturing, “blasting oil and gas out of solid rock,” as Slottje describes it – out of their communities.

In May 2012, Elizabeth Wood and I were traveling in upstate New York, visiting friends. Along highways wide and narrow, sign after sign appeared – one word, circled, with a line drawn through it – “no fracking.” Our friends confirmed widespread local opposition to this extractive process, so hazardous to land, water, air and people in the region. Only this year, however, did we become aware of the Slottjes’ campaign and its stunning success.

Thus far, about 200 towns and cities in New York have exercised their zoning power and either declared a moratorium on fracking or banned it altogether.  And the state’s highest court has affirmed their right to do so in two decisions.

“What I’m all about,” Slottje said, “is people being in charge in their own communities.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 November 2014 13:56

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Declaring war on fracking - Faint of heart can’t win, lawyer says

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

Helen Slottje was in Billings to fight fracking last week. Photo by Ed Kemmick, LastBestNews.comShortly after moving to Ithaca, N.Y., in summer 2009, corporate lawyer Helen Slottje attended a town meeting that would have a profound impact on her life.

“What we were told then was that fracking was coming and there was nothing we could do about it,” Slottje said. “My husband, David, and I were both corporate lawyers at the time. As corporate lawyers, you never want to tell your clients ‘no.’ Our general attitude on most things is that there has to be a way to accomplish what we want to accomplish. If you think about something long and hard enough, you’ll come up with a solution. And we did.”

The solution that Slottje and her husband came up with involved helping towns pass localized bans on fracking. It was a surprisingly simple yet effective solution.

“It was so simple, we thought we must be missing something,” Slottje said. “Why had nobody else seen that the emperor had no clothes? It turned out that we weren’t missing anything. Basically, people had been told there was nothing they could do and they believed it.”

Now, Slottje is traveling the country with a different message – one of empowerment and hope. She was in Billings Nov. 14-15 as keynote speaker at Northern Plains Resource Council’s 43rd annual meeting (see Wilbur Wood’s report in this issue.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 November 2014 13:56

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Illegal drilling spreading

By SARAH TORY - High Country News

Across the oil and gas rich plains of North Dakota and Oklahoma, more and more wells are popping up. And more and more of them use a technology called “horizontal drilling,” which allows drillers to bore sideways as well as vertically – multiplying the amount of oil or gas extracted many times over. By marrying this technique with hydraulic fracturing (shooting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock to release their energy stores), U.S. production has soared to unprecedented levels. But while that’s good news for the economy, it’s leaving regulators several steps behind.

A recent report from the Interior Department’s inspector general highlighted the problem of illegal drilling on federal lands. Sometimes oil companies, whose wells extend thousands of feet horizontally, are unaware they are penetrating federal land.

At least that’s the conclusion outlined in a report by the Office of the Inspector General, released late last month, which found that the increase in horizontal drilling means it’s easier than ever for oil and gas companies to operate – inadvertently or not – in areas for which they don’t have permission to drill. The unauthorized drilling means the government is losing out on royalty payments, and poses environmental risks.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 09:46

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