Jan. 17 Regional News Briefs


Butte woman claims Montana Millionaire prize

BUTTE (AP) — A Butte woman has claimed the top prize in the annual Montana Millionaire raffle.

Montana Lottery officials say Amy Lambert bought her ticket at a Town Pump in Butte. On Tuesday, Lambert claimed her after-taxes winnings of $681,000.

Lottery spokeswoman Jennifer McKee told The Montana Standard that she didn’t have an age or any other information about Lambert.

The Montana Millionaire game sells 150,000 tickets for $20 each. It also drew numbers for three $100,000 prizes and five $10,000 prizes on Dec. 29.


Coal company to supply new 

power plants in Japan

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming coal company is planning to export coal from its mine in Montana to power two new coal-fired plants in Japan.

Cloud Peak Energy on Tuesday announced the agreement with Singapore-based JERA Trading to supply the coal over 30 to 40 months beginning at the end 2019.

The coal is expected to be transported by rail from the company’s Spring Creek mine near Decker, Montana, to port in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The coal would then be shipped to the plants in the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan.

Company officials say the two 540-megawatt plants are being built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industrials and convert the coal into a synthetic natural gas. The first plant is expected to begin operations in 2020. 

Montana State fraternity to be shut down for 3 years

BOZEMAN (AP) — Montana State University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity will be shutting down for the next three academic years.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that university officials on Tuesday reached an agreement with the fraternity’s national headquarters.

University Dean of Students Matt Caires says the decision follows years of incidents that endangered student health and safety.

The university and fraternity headquarters placed the chapter on interim suspension in November. All current undergraduate members have been suspended from the fraternity indefinitely and will not be allowed to reside in the house.

The local house alumni corporation will continue managing the property, but it will never again operate as a fraternity house. Caires says the university will support the fraternity’s return to campus in 2020 if agreement terms are upheld.


More than 50 Yellowstone bison escape quarantine facility

BILLINGS (AP) — More than 50 Yellowstone National Park bison have escaped through a cut fence at a containment area where they were being prepared for transfer to the Fort Peck Tribes.

The Billings Gazette reports 54 of the animals escaped from two pens at the Stephens Creek facility near Gardiner on Tuesday, and the National Park Service has begun a criminal investigation.

The bison had been in containment for nearly two years to assure they were free of brucellosis, a disease that can cause livestock to miscarry.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called the release devastating and said it’s unclear if the bison will have to be quarantined again or if they can still be considered a minimal risk for brucellosis. It appears that someone cut the fence with bolt cutters.


Montana State Prison opens 30-bed inpatient treatment center

HELENA (AP) — The Montana State Prison has opened a 30-bed chemical dependency treatment program for inmates approaching their release dates.

Warden Reginald Michael says the goal is to give inmates the tools they need to cope with the stresses of living in society without relapsing into drug and alcohol use and possibly being returned to prison.

The treatment, which will last from 90 to 180 days, will take place in the facility that previously housed the boot camp program. The 2017 Legislature eliminated a law that required the Corrections Department to operate a boot camp. The new program accepted its first inmates on Tuesday. Prison officials plan to expand the capacity of the treatment center.


Libby man gets 20 years in 

prison for fatal crash

LIBBY (AP) — A northwestern Montana man who acknowledged using methamphetamines before causing a fatal crash has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Western News reports 27-year-old Richard Gene Davidson of Libby was sentenced Jan. 5 for the March 2017 crash on Montana Highway 56 that killed Laura Cooper of Troy and injured two 7-year-old boys in her vehicle — her son and his friend.

Davidson earlier pleaded guilty vehicular homicide while under the influence. Prosecutors said his vehicle crossed the center line and struck Cooper’s. District Judge John Larson sentenced Davidson to 30 years in the Montana State Prison with 10 suspended. He must serve 10 years before he will be eligible for parole.


Business group asks Congress for protection for marijuana

SEATTLE (AP) — A group representing marijuana business owners in the West is urging Congress to include language in a government spending bill that would protect pot operations.

The Western Regional Cannabis Business Alliance said Tuesday it is asking for legislative protection after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ signaled a tougher approach to federal pot enforcement. Earlier this month Sessions said he was ending an Obama-era policy that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal.

The marijuana business group wants lawmakers to include language in an appropriations bill that would prohibit the Justice Department from spending money to thwart marijuana businesses in states where it is legal. The Western Regional Cannabis Business Alliance represents marijuana businesses in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Arizona.