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Thursday, July 20th 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT

Boy gets probation for starting fire at Montana high school

(Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A teenager has been sentenced to probation and must pay restitution for an arson fire that caused $3 million in damage at a Montana high school.

The Independent Record reports https://goo.gl/BX9NrA the boy, who was sentenced Wednesday, was 13 when he and two teenage girls started fires in a custodian closet and classroom at Helena High School in November. The fire closed the entire school for two days and the damaged wing of the building for three months.

The boy will be supervised until he turns 18, and he and one of the girls have been ordered to pay the school district's $250,000 insurance deductible.

The girls have pleaded guilty in the case, and one was sentenced to a secure chemical dependency treatment facility after she was caught stealing beer from a store.



Woman arrested on arson charge after house fire in Anaconda

(Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

ANACONDA, Mont. (AP) — Police have arrested a woman in connection with a house fire in western Montana, and investigators say she also is a "person of interest" in another fire that gutted a historic mansion.

The Montana Standard reports https://goo.gl/FAP7CD 48-year-old Kellie Olson was arrested Sunday on an arson charge stemming from Saturday's fire on East Front Street in Anaconda. Police Chief Tim Barkell says investigators also are trying to determine if she started a fire Friday night that burned the 1894 Shields Mansion on Main Street.

Owner Vince Reece says the mansion had been empty for eight years and he was renovating it. He says there was no electricity in the house and lighting has been ruled out as a cause.

A third suspicious fire in Anaconda started at the KANA AM radio station Monday morning, after Olson was arrested.


This story has been corrected to reflect that the fire at the Shields Mansion started Friday night.



Far-ranging grizzly spotted in Montana's Big Belt Mountains

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Another grizzly bear has shown up in a part of Montana that hasn't seen grizzlies in as long as a century.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said Wednesday that a trail camera captured a picture of a 3 ½ year old grizzly in the Big Belt Mountains west of White Sulphur Springs in early June.

Last month, two grizzlies were killed after preying on livestock near Stanford, east of Great Falls.

There are approximately 1,000 bears in the Northern Continental Divide grizzly population, classified as a threatened species. They are ranging farther east from the Rocky Mountain Front in search of food as their numbers rebound.

They are considered a separate population from grizzlies living in the Yellowstone National Park area that are being removed from the endangered and threatened species list on July 31.


American student detained in China after dispute with cabbie

BEIJING (AP) — Police in central China have arrested an American college student on charges of intentional injury following an altercation with a taxi driver.

A family friend of Guthrie McLean said Thursday that the University of Montana student was formally arrested in the city of Zhengzhou earlier this week.

Tom Mitchell, the family friend who is also Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times, said McLean was trying to protect his mother from a local taxi driver in a dispute that took place on June 10.

Mitchell said he's not aware if any U.S. official has visited McLean in detention.

The Zhengzhou municipal public security bureau, when contacted by The Associated Press, said it does not take inquiries about individual cases. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing referred questions to spokesmen in Washington.


GOP targets Endangered Species Act as protections lifted

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans are moving forward with legislation to roll back the Endangered Species Act, amid complaints that the 44-year-old law hinders drilling, logging and other activities.

House and Senate committees were holding simultaneous hearings Wednesday on bills to revise the law and limit lengthy and costly litigation associated with it.

The bills come as a federal court lifted federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the Trump administration is removing protections for grizzly bears in and near Yellowstone National Park.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop said the bills would curb excessive litigation and allow officials to focus on actual species conservation.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, the panel's senior Democrat, said the endangered species law "does not need congressional meddling to work better. What it needs is congressional support."


Sheriff investigating shots fired at crop dusting plane

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — The Gallatin County sheriff's office is investigating after shots were fired at a crop dusting airplane as it applied fungicide to a wheat field near Belgrade.

Headwaters Flying Service owner Cody Folkvord says his plane was hit twice Tuesday morning by shots fired from the ground. He was not injured and was able to land safely.

Folkvord says one shot in the aircraft's left wing and the other hit its right wing, at most about 18 inches from the cockpit.

Undersheriff Dan Springer tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (bit.ly/2u9wtss) that detectives are investigating.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Wednesday, July 19th 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:21 a.m. MDT

Montana governor downplays presidential aspirations

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is downplaying his national political ambitions even as he sets up a committee that would pay for his travel to political events across the country.

During a meeting with reporters in his Montana Capitol office on Tuesday, Bullock said he is seeking to add his voice to the national conversation on health care, public lands and a host of other issues. But he says any speculation about a presidential bid or a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 is premature.

He filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday for a political action committee called Big Sky Values. Bullock says it will help raise money to fund non-official trips.

Bullock is among many Democrats testing potential presidential runs.


Attorney faces sanctions in campaign finance investigation

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A state judge says a Billings attorney violated the rules of professional conduct by trying to obstruct access to evidence in a campaign finance investigation.

The Billings Gazette reports District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena ordered attorney Emily Jones to pay reasonable costs incurred by the commissioner of political practices to overcome her interference in the investigation into the 2012 campaign activities of the Montana Growth Network. The costs have yet to be determined.

The violation occurred when Jones wrote to donors and others involved with the network, warning them not to share information about her husband's political consulting firm, saying it was confidential.

Seeley also forwarded her July 12 ruling to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for consideration of an ethical complaint against Jones.

The commissioner's case against Montana Growth Network is still ongoing.



Montana man pleads guilty to killing man on excavator

SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) — An eastern Montana man has pleaded guilty to killing a man as he sat on an excavator at a work site in August 2016.

Raymond Hansen of Sidney pleaded guilty Friday to deliberate homicide in the shooting death of 63-year-old Terry Klein. A plea agreement calls for Hansen to be sentenced to 100 years in prison with 30 suspended.

Court officials said Hansen didn't give a reason for the shooting, which happened while the victim was working on a breached irrigation canal south of Sidney.

The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Hansen's sentencing will be scheduled for no sooner than Oct. 13.


Perry touts energy exports, awaits study on electric grid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the Trump administration is pushing for increased exports of natural gas and other energy sources as its seeks U.S. "energy dominance" in the global market.

Perry said he and President Donald Trump have offered a "comforting" message to energy companies seeking to export liquefied natural gas: "If you meet the rules, here's your permit."

Perry also touted increased U.S. oil and coal exports to boost energy production and jobs.

Perry said Tuesday he hasn't seen a widely expected department study into the reliability of the electric grid. A draft version leaked to news outlets indicates that renewable power and federal regulations have had little impact on reliability.

Perry said he's among those "breathlessly waiting to get my hands on it."


US coal exports surge on sales to Europe, Asia

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. coal exports rose sharply in early 2017 amid increased demand in Asia and Europe.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday that exports are up by 8 million tons to 22.3 million tons through March.

That's a 58 percent jump over the 14.1 million tons exported during the same period in 2016. The increase comes after five years of declines.

Exports volumes were up most significantly through ports in Norfolk, Virginia; New Orleans and Seattle. Top destinations for U.S. coal were the Netherlands, South Korea and India.

Despite the increase, volumes remain well below industry expectations when plans were announced over the past decade to build or expand coal ports in Oregon, Louisiana, Washington state and California.

Most of those projects have stalled or been cancelled. Federal officials say there's still more export capacity than needed.


Washington Companies has deal to buy Canadian diamond mine

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana-based Washington Companies has an agreement to buy a Canadian diamond mining company for $1.2 billion.

Shareholders of Dominion Diamond Corp. and Canadian investment regulators must approve the deal, which offered shareholders $14.25 cash per share. The company's board of directors unanimously supports the sale.

Dominion Diamond has a controlling interest in the Ekati Mine and a 40 percent stake in the Diavik Mine, which both produce gem-quality diamonds in the Northwest Territories. The Missoulian reports the Ekati Mine produced 5.2 million carats of rough diamonds in Fiscal 2017 while Dominion received 2.7 million carats of rough diamonds from its share of the Diavik Mine in 2016.

Washington Cos. President Lawrence Simkins says Dominion Mines owns the "CanadaMark" trademark, an assurance the diamonds are responsibly mined and unaltered by heat-treating or cavity filling.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.