BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials say applications to drill for oil and gas on federal and Indian lands are expected to decrease 40 percent in coming years versus their historical average.
The projection comes as cheap prices have curtailed domestic energy exploration, driving down state and federal revenue.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Thursday will announce a proposal for all drilling applications to be filed online, in an effort to streamline the approval process.
The move follows years of criticism from the energy sector over the Obama administration’s handling of drilling applications. Industry groups say lengthy delays drive up costs.
Bureau spokeswoman Bev Winston says the move to online permitting will allow 90 percent of applications to be completed within 115 days. The average time in 2015 was 220 days.
Man dies after crashing ATV on Forest Service road near Taft
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 74-year-old Trout Creek man died after crashing his all-terrain vehicle on a Forest Service road near Taft.
The Missoulian reports Glenn Smith was riding with two Noxon men and his son, also from Trout Creek, when he crashed a couple of miles north of Interstate 90 on Wednesday.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Gaston says Smith, who was not wearing a helmet, went up an embankment, fell off the ATV, rolled down across the road and hit his head on a rock.
Smith was taken to a hospital in Superior before he was airlifted to Missoula, where he died Thursday.
State receives new proposal for gold mining near Yellowstone
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A company has resubmitted its application to look for gold in Montana near the Yellowstone National Park border after state officials raised some concerns with the project.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Kristi Ponozzo with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the agency received the updated application from Crevice Mining Group last week. It’s currently under review.
State environmental officials had raised some concerns about the Crevice Mountain exploratory drilling project in April based on the initial application that was sent in October. They had wanted to make sure the Spokane, Washington-based company didn’t combine the operations with the operations governed by a small miner’s permit it already obtained from the state.
The head of the company, Michael Werner, says there have been no substantial changes to the project.
Officials identify man killed in officer-involved shooting
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State officials have released the name of a 20-year-old man who was fatally shot by an officer on U.S. Highway 191 southwest of Malta.
The Department of Justice identified the victim as Emil Ambros Mecklenburg of Malta. An autopsy was scheduled Thursday in Billings.
Officials say Mecklenburg was shot and killed early Wednesday after stabbing a Phillips County sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a report of suspicious man walking along the highway.
Deputy Alan Guderjahn was still being held for medical observation. DOJ spokesman John Barnes says it’s expected that Guderjahn will be released from the hospital in Great Falls either Thursday or Friday.
Agents with the state Division of Criminal Investigation are still investigating the shooting. Once the investigation is complete, a coroner’s inquest will be scheduled.
Officials identify man who possibly drowned in Flathead Lake
POLSON, Mont. (AP) — Lake County officials have released the name of a 51-year-old man who possibly drowned in Flathead Lake after falling off a paddleboard.
Sheriff Don Bell says Ty Kanara of St. Regis died Tuesday. His body was sent to the state crime lab to determine his cause of death.
Bell tells KERR-AM a passerby on a boat heard Kanara’s family members screaming for help because he had fallen off the board in a bay north of Polson and did not resurface. A person on the boat dove in and brought Kanara to shore and started CPR before medical responders arrived. Efforts to revive him failed.
Officials say Kanara was not wearing a life vest.
Parole board recommends executive clemency for rape
DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) — The state Board of Pardons and Parole is recommending that Gov. Steve Bullock grant executive clemency to a Glasgow man who was convicted of raping his girlfriend when she was 15 and he was 19.
Russell “Delano” Foster argued the sex was consensual, but because she was under the age of legal consent, Foster was convicted in 1996. The two married when he got out of prison in 2000. They have four children ranging in age from 14 to 20.
The couple says having the sex offense on his record can prevent them from getting certain state licenses or government contracts. They tell the Great Falls Tribune that if Bullock grants executive clemency, they will seek to have Delano Foster’s record expunged.