Nov. 13 Montana News Briefs

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Regulators OK coal mine expansion bond

BILLINGS (AP) — State environmental regulators have given the OK to expanding a coal mine in southeastern Montana and set a $13.7 million cleanup bond. The Department of Environmental Quality is taking public comment through Tuesday on Westmoreland Coal Co.’s proposed 10-square mile (27-square kilometer) expansion of the Rosebud Mine. Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center tells The Billings Gazette she doesn’t believe the bond is high enough while the Northern Plains Resource Council says the expansion sits on top of an aquifer that supplies area ranches. Northern Plains chairwoman Becky Mitchell says because Westmoreland has filed for bankruptcy it likely will sell the mine and the eventual buyer should be scrutinized on their own merits. Kristi Ponozzo with the DEQ says the agency cannot be prejudiced against Westmoreland because of its October bankruptcy filing.

Montana colleges could tighten rules for in-state tuition

BOZEMAN (AP) — The Montana University System is mulling over tightening the rules for out-of-state students who want to gain in-state residency status that can cut thousands of dollars from tuition expenses. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the proposal will be presented as an informational item next week to the Montana Board of Regents. If the regents like the idea, a formal vote on updating the residency rules would be held at a future meeting. Montana allows new students to apply for residency if they have lived in the state continuously for 12 months and can document their intention to become residents. The new proposed rules would require students to file a Montana tax return for all taxable income earned during the 12 months when residency is claimed. Students would also be required to document financial independence for at least 12 months.

Corrections department cutting 22 positions to trim budget

GREAT FALLS (AP) — The state Department of Corrections is cutting 22 positions to trim its budget ahead of the 2019 legislative session. Director Reginald Michael says nearly half of the cuts come from the Youth Services Division, in part because the number of youth under supervision or in custody is declining. Cindy McKenzie, the Youth Services Division administrator, is retiring while 10 positions are being cut from youth transition services. The agency had already announced the closure of the prison infirmary in Lewistown, which will cut six positions. The Great Falls Tribune reported Monday three positions are being cut from the central field office, two from the Riverside Recovery and Re-entry Program in Boulder as well as the government relations director position. Some workers were transferred to other positions. Officials said they have not determined a total savings.

Harlem woman arrested, suspected in hypothermia death

HAVRE (AP) — A 25-year-old Harlem woman has been arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide in an apparent hypothermia death south of Havre. The woman told investigators that the victim drove a pickup into a ditch late Wednesday or early Thursday, leading to a fight. The Harlem woman said the victim was intoxicated and had a bloody nose when she kicked her out of the pickup. Just after 8 a.m. Thursday, the woman called 911 seeking help in finding her friend. The Havre Daily News reports temperatures had dropped to 12 degrees (negative 11 degrees Celsius). A Hill County deputy found the victim in a ditch wearing shorts and a light jacket. She died at a Great Falls hospital. Her name has not been released. The suspect has not appeared in court. Her bail was set at $100,000.

73 Montana firefighters to battle deadly California fires

BILLINGS (AP) — Seventy-three Montana firefighters are traveling to California to help battle the deadly wildfires there. The firefighters come from 17 agencies and are traveling to northern California in 20 engines. They were expected to arrive Monday night. Jake Ganieany with the state Disaster and Emergency Services agency tells The Billings Gazette the firefighters will stay for two weeks, including Thanksgiving. The crews were requested Saturday under an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows states to request help from other states. Ganieany said they left on Sunday. California will pay their costs. The firefighters are coming from Missoula, Butte, Livingston and several smaller towns along with the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Disaster and Emergency Services. The Camp Fire in northern California has killed at least 29 people.

Retired Montana priest charged with child pornography case

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A retired Montana priest is charged with receiving child pornography. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 80-year-old Lothar Konrad Krauth made an initial appearance in federal court Friday. He was ordered held pending a detention hearing Wednesday. His attorney, Jason Holden, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. The complaint says officers acting on a tip discovered 400 images of child pornography at Krauth’s residence in Great Falls, some involving children as young as 2. The Great Falls Tribune reports Krauth was assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Church from 1989 to 2014. The complaint alleges the crimes occurred in 2017 and 2018. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings said it had never received a complaint about Krauth regarding sexual abuse of children. The diocese recently settled 86 sexual abuse claims for $20 million.

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