Various & Sundry for the Weekend

by jhwygirl

As always, please consider this an open thread.

2nd Grade Bike Rack consistently puts out quality reading – most recently a piece that talks about the lack of transparency with U.N. carbon credits and the corruption which has ensued.

Equality is an important issue. I won’t be silent anymore. The time has come, and we all must speak out. James Conner, the excellent editor of the Flathead Memo has an astute watching eye which caught news that the Montana ACLU had filed its appeal of a Montana District Court decision dismissing the same-sex domestic partnership case, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, to the Montana Supreme Court.

Which – on that note – a number of organizations met in Helena this past week to discuss the campaign for the next equality ordinance in Montana. I have’t seen any emails (but then again, I’m not living in Helena) but I hope maybe someone can get me some or put me on some email update list – in the meantime, hopefully Ryan Morton (who I happen to know did attend) might stop by and give us a report on the happenings.

Good Luck to Helena on that. 100% support.

Intelligent Discontent’s Don Pogreba points out Rep. Denny Rehberg’s backpedaling for the week – this time dropping his lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department for having ‘allowed’ his sagebrush-and-coulee filled undeveloped yet-to-be-approved subdivision which he had hoped would be a golf course burn.

The winds were something like 40 mph. that red flag afternoon.

Rehberg had tried to settle, if I recall correctly, about 2 months ago – which the Billings Fire Department correctly rejected.

And guess what? Rehberg did even more backpedaling this week on his original plan to hand over a 100 mile wide swatch of Montana’s borders into the jurisdiction of U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Sports groups have been hitting him hard on that:

Sen. Tester and Rep. Rehberg have traded barbs over Rehberg’s ridiculous bill…and even the conservatives are slamming it.

So what does Rehberg do? The editor at The Button Valley Bugle sums up the bit of old Sheriff Arpaio crowd-loving styled backpeddling: Rehberg’s proposed a “sheriff’s amendment” to his bill.

Tea Party all the way.

Which, speaking of, we haven’t seen or heard much from them lately, have we?

Who is Traviss Kavulla? He’s that elusive creature we call a politician who does his job – in this case, a Public Service Commission commissioner (chair, actually). As a PSC commissioner, it’s really his and his fellow commissioners job to oversee utilities here in Montana and make sure that consumers are protected from any number of poor or greedy decisions these corporations may make that could have adverse affects on not only consumers but the Montana economy. His latest delve into some uncharted but needed territory? Seeking to intervene in the Southern Montana Electric bankruptcy.

Kavulla, incidentally, is not only the youngest member of the commission – he’s a Republican. He is supported on this intent to intervene into the proceedings by Democratic commissioners Gail Gutsche and John Vincent – who had both supported Kavulla as chair.

And Kavulla is right – that bankruptcy will not only affect SME, it’ll affect all the other utility companies that have dealings with them and their money-sucking doomed coal-fired plants that (luckily) failed in Great Falls.

Labels don’t always work. Don’t rely on them.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. Stay warm out there Griz and Cat fans!

  1. I had the pleasant fortune to spend a few hours with Travis last winter in a meet-up with other ECW contributors (Travis, Gregg, Jeff Mangen, and me.) It was a bit disarming when I encountered such a bright and informed young person while understanding that my Sorel boots are three years older than he.

    Smart, curious and incredibly nice. We’re lucky to have him and I think his future may find some startling brilliance in public policy.

    • dave-
      both you and travis facilitate intelligent a refreshing move away from the usual back and forth of polar opposites which dominates most online forums. i see a new dynamic here and applaud the growing level of discourse which encourages participation for more thoughtful and diverse views.


    • I’ve been a fan of ECW since it was a one-man Gregg show. His coverage of Southern Montana Electric from the beginning was spot on. All that has played out court he’s been correct on – and even this impending bankruptcy, pretty much.

      I think it’s a shame we have to pick labels in politics. Maybe if people had to run on their ideas and intelligence and record instead of “dem” or “repub” we’d all be a hell of a lot better off.

      Labels have made the public lazy.

  2. Matthew Koehler

    Open thread RE: UM’s proposed $16 million wood-burning Biomass Plant

    Note that this letter to the Board of Regents was also signed by the entire University of Montana heating plant crew.

    TO: Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila M. Stearns
    Members of the Board of Regents of Higher Education
    Stephen Barrett
    Todd Buchanan
    Clayton Christian
    Angela McLean
    Major Robinson
    Joseph Thiel
    Paul Tuss

    FROM: Missoulians Concerned with Air Quality and Higher Education
    DATE: November 12, 2011
    RE: UM Biomass Decision

    Questions were raised in the fall of 2010, regarding many aspects of the biomass system proposed for heating the University of Montana campus. The boiler was purported to cut the UM’s carbon footprint while saving $1,000,000 in heating costs annually. This was to be accomplished wIthout worsening Missoula’s air quality. One year later, these unsubstantiated claims frustrate Missoulians – Montana State taxpayers – because of the UM Administration’s reluctance to provide independently verifiable and current data detailing: 1. installation and fuel costs, 2. performance, and 3. how the system will integrate with the existing, necessary, clean burning, and paid for natural gas system.

    Presently, an increasing number of Missoula residents believe the proposed system will: 1. dramatically decrease Missoula air quality leading to more resident health problems, 2. increase the UM’s carbon footprint, and 3. cost more annually to operate than our present heating system. Unfortunately, the Nexterra price tag has escalated from an initial $10 (April, 2010) to $14 (July, 2010), and finally to $16 million dollars. Who knows what the final figure will be when all the accessory equipment is installed?

    In light of the evolving, 20 million dollar University of South Carolina (USC) Nexterra biomass debacle (Missoulian 10/16 /11), Missoula residents have become even more concerned with this proposal. Meanwhile, at USC, the “blame game” has started with people denying their role in the decision making process. Once a system like that is built in Missoula, we Missoulians will be stuck with this costly, polluting-device which emits approximately the equivalent, according to the Missoula City-County Health Department, of 560 residential wood-burning pellet stoves. How ironic! Missoula drastically curtailed home wood stove use for health reasons back in the 1980s and this proposed device will be located in a residentially-zoned district.

    In a Missoulian letter printed on 10/13/11, the writer asked how the UM Administration could still claim an annual million dollar savings when there were no fuel bids at lower than $100/ton. And, rather than burning forest slash, as originally proposed at $40/ton, the UM will need to buy logs and process (chip) them on campus at greater expense while further lessening air quality.

    We urge the Board of Regents, entrusted by the residents of Montana to make academic and fiscal decisions in the best interests of students and Montana taxpayers, to revisit the decisions that have been made in light of the important new information about biomass heat generation.

    Thank you for your consideration of this important health and monetary matter.


    Gary Beck
    Diane and Fred Bodholt
    Eric and Lee Clemmensen
    Ken Davidson
    Julie Devin
    Betty L. Dratz
    Chris Gingerelli
    Dorothy Gruba
    Robin and Peggy Hamilton
    James Habeck
    Suzy Hampton
    Harold and Jan Hoem
    Robert Hausmann
    Matthew Koehler
    Ian and Jo-Ann Lange
    Kay Larsen
    Mary Elizabeth Lemire
    Dr. Paul Loehnen
    Fred McGlynn
    Dennis and Mary Ellen O’Donnell
    Karyn Perszyk
    Jane Rectenwald
    Graham and Jenny Roy
    Tom and Susan Roy
    Dotti Servis
    Bernard and Janis Silverman
    Sharon Skinner
    Dr. John Snively
    Francis Weigand
    Walter Wilde
    Ray Williams

    Entire UM Heating Plant Crew
    Mike Burke
    Jerry Gibbs
    dave Hensel
    Dennis Rowland
    Dale Seitz


    “Contrary to previous claims by UM administrators, the university’s proposed biomass boiler will not reduce emissions to levels below that of natural gas. In fact, UM’s proposed state-of-the-art biomass gasification plant will produce nearly twice as much nitrogen dioxide as its existing natural gas boilers – and in some cases, will release three times as much particulate matter .” – Missoulian article, April 20, 2011

    “We all need to remember that what we are constructing is a public relations story, not a scientific analysis. We need to be straight with the facts but tilt the story towards our perspective. Small words, short sentences, no jargon is what the general public will find appealing.”
    – UM Vice President of Administration and Finance Bob Duringer (in a 12/22/10 email obtained by the WildWest Institute through an open records search)

    “There has been a debilitating aspect throughout this whole vetting process by certain decision-makers – to not let facts get in the way of the agenda. I sang this proposal’s virtues for a long while out of a sense of loyalty … but if this proposal goes south, it will give the University of Montana a black eye. I wouldn’t want that to happen. I owe this institution to try and forestall what I consider a calamity.”
    – UM heating plant supervisor, Mike Burke (Missoulian, May 19, 2011)

    “We as individuals have tens of years of work history around biofuel boilers. We do not believe management gave us much credit for our views, experience and opinions. Had they listened, they would not have gone forward with this proposal.” – UM stationary engineers who run the campus heating plant (Missoulian, May 19, 2011)

    “Bob Duringer has it all wrong. The University of Montana’s vice president for administration and finance has said some troubling things about the university’s proposed biomass project – specifically, about the public’s right to information about it. These statements reveal an attitude that is badly out of step with the concerns of the Missoula community, and show that when it comes to this project at least, Duringer doesn’t necessarily have Missoulians’ best interests at heart.” – Missoulian Editorial, Oct 30, 2011

    “This is a lower level of eco-terrorism.”
    – Bob Duringer, University of Montana’s vice president of administration and finance regarding those who have concerns with UM’s proposed biomass plant (Missoulian, Nov 17, 2011)

    “For the record, I told the Missoulian reporter that your current tactics were consistent with those of low level eco-terrorist tactics, not that your group was in that camp. An important distinction, I would think, as you make accusations.” – – Bob Duringer, University of Montana’s vice president of administration and finance in an email to Matthew Koehler, November 18, 2011

  3. Ingemar Johansson

    MT hunters and anglers are a front group for greenies.

  4. Matthew Koehler

    These political ads from these 501 C4 “educational groups” (that don’t need to identify their donors) are bad news, whether they are supporting Dems or Republicans. This secret, anonymous money in politics stinks either way.

    Fact is that many of the people “starring” in the ad are also part of Sen Tester’s Sportsmen’s Caucus advisory group, or supporters of Tester’s mandated logging bill.

    Learn more about Montana Hunters and Anglers and their quarter million dollar Montana ad buy here:



    A Montana hunting-and-angling group with Democratic ties has made a large TV ad buy rapping Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg for his support of a bill that gives the U.S. Border Patrol access to all federal lands for border-security purposes.

    Calling the bill a “federal land grab of the highest order,” Montana Hunters and Anglers Action bought ads in the Missoula and Billings television markets that urged viewers to call Rehberg and ask him to oppose the bill.

    The ads, airing on network and cable TV stations, began Monday and will continue for three weeks, said Land Tawney of Missoula, president of the newly formed group.

    Tawney, a senior manager for the National Wildlife Federation, wouldn’t reveal the cost of the buy, but sources told the Lee Newspapers State Bureau that it’s between $200,000 and $250,000….

    The group registered with the Montana secretary of state’s office on Oct. 6 as a nonprofit group.

    In addition to Tawney, its officers include Democratic state Sen. Kendall Van Dyk of Billings; Barrett Kaiser, a Billings communications consultant and former aide to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; and George Cooper, a senior vice president for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm and former news producer for CNN.

    As a 501(c) (4) “educational” group, Montana Hunters and Anglers Action is not required to reveal its financial donors. Tawney said the donors have asked not to be identified, but that they include individuals and organizations.

    Read more:

  5. Ryan Morton

    The NDO kick-off was amazing! I’d post pics, but I don’t know how. Anyhow…

    Filled HUB Coffee filled to brim in downtown Helena, we heard from organizers, a minister, HS students, and local electeds. The event was less speeches and more community building and socializing. All positive.

    We expect to see more action after the first of the year. Congrats to Kim Abbott and Jamee Greer on a great kick-off!

  6. Ryan Emmett Morton

    Being that this is an open thread…

    WTF is up with this new Meth Project ad campaign?



    I’m all for keeping people away from meth and helping those addicted to get clean, but this sort of messaging really bothers me. Any thoughts?

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