Board urged to adopt buffers between homes, oil drilling
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Farmers and environmentalists are urging Montana regulators to establish buffer zones around residences to protect them from oil and gas drilling.
But energy industry representatives say such a move is not needed and would put large areas of the state off-limits to development.
The state Board of Oil and Gas Conservation on Wednesday heard almost two hours of testimony on whether to require so-called setbacks for drilling. Chairwoman Linda Nelson says the board will decide in August whether it wants to pursue the matter.
Homestead-area farmer Dale Nelson says a 1,000-foot setback would protect his family from accidental fires and other potential dangers posed by oil wells around his property.
A buffer rule proposed during the 2015 Legislature died in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Audit: 125 errors in state financial reporting
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An analysis of the state’s finances last year has revealed 125 errors and a lack of internal controls that could have brought the inaccuracies to light earlier.
Tori Hunthausen of the Legislative Audit Division told lawmakers Wednesday that an audit of the Department of Administration found financial misstatements and omissions that have the potential to affect the state’s AA+ bond rating.
The errors included an approximately $1 billion overstatement of how much infrastructure had depreciated.
Republican Rep. Dee Brown of Hungry Horse calls the findings disturbing and says she hasn’t seen a similar report in 14 years on the Legislative Audit Committee.
State budget director Dan Villa says he and Department of Administration director Sheila Hogan have put a team in place to address the issue to make sure it will never happen again.
Businessman hit with more charges in tribal corruption probe
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A new indictment charges a Havre businessman with bribing the head of the Chippewa Cree tribe’s roads department and overcharging the work his company did as part of a $10.6 million federal stimulus grant to the tribe.
The federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday charges Shad Huston with bribery, wire fraud, false claims conspiracy and false claims against a federally funded project.
Huston pleaded not guilty.
The indictment alleges that Huston gave tribal roads branch director Timothy Rosette $5,000 or more in exchange for a contract with Huston’s K Bar K Trucking. It says Huston submitted inflated invoices for the work the company did, and used the extra money for his and Rosette’s benefit.
Huston already is facing charges in three other cases in a wide-ranging Chippewa Cree corruption investigation.
Bozeman man denies charges in girlfriend’s death
(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A 31-year-old Bozeman man is denying charges in the April death of his girlfriend.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports David Hughes pleaded not guilty Wednesday to negligent homicide in the death of 28-year-old Kerri Ann McKinney of Big Sky.
District Judge John Brown continued Hughes’ $250,000 bail, which was set in his arrest warrant. Defense attorney Todd Whipple said he would file a motion within a week seeking a lower bail amount.
Charging documents allege Hughes struck and killed McKinney with his pickup after an argument on April 13. She died of head injuries.
Court records say Hughes told investigators that McKinney was trying to get into his truck as he drove away and when he looked in his rear-view mirror, he saw her lying in the road.
Officials identify Bakken worker killed in vehicle crash
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have identified a 30-year-old Bakken oilfield worker who died in a weekend accident in northwestern Montana.
Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Frederick says David Penski of Vail, Arizona, died Sunday of injuries suffered in an accident in Culbertson.
The Montana Highway Patrol says a 40-year-old man was driving a pickup truck and dragging a deck that had been attached to a mobile home. Penski was standing on the deck when it struck a curb, throwing him off.
The patrol says the driver continued down the street, stopped and detached the deck and drove away. He returned to the scene about an hour later and was cited with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident.
Officials identify 19-year-old man killed in rollover crash
(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Officials in Roosevelt County have released the name of a 19-year-old man who died in a rollover crash southwest of Brockton.
The coroner’s office tells The Billings Gazette that Joseph Ryan Hanson of Culbertson died in the crash on BIA Route 1 on Sunday morning.
The Montana Highway Patrol says Hanson was a passenger in a vehicle that was traveling eastbound when it went into the ditch on the left side of the road. The driver overcorrected and the vehicle went into the ditch on the right-hand side of the road and rolled several times.
Knievel plans to celebrate sobriety with jump over Butte bar
(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Motorcycle daredevil Robbie Knievel says he plans to celebrate his newfound sobriety by jumping over a Butte bar during a festival honoring the legacy of his father, Evel Knievel.
Knievel tells The Montana Standard he plans “The Sober Jump” over the Red Zone bar during Evel Knievel Days in late July. The building is 28 feet high and 120 feet wide.
The day and time of Knievel’s jump haven’t been announced.
Knievel faces a drunk-driving charge for an April 21 arrest in Butte after a four-car collision. He says he hasn’t had any alcohol since then. He has a preliminary court hearing Thursday.
Knievel’s driver’s license is suspended, but Butte-Silver Bow County Undersheriff George Skuletich says the jump is planned for private property, so it poses no violation.
Spokane man pleads guilty to drug, racketeering charges
(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Spokane man is facing 10 years in prison under his guilty pleas entered Tuesday on charges that he ran heroin, methamphetamine and women from Washington to the Missoula, Montana area.
The Missoulian reports 47-year-old Frederick Glen Johnson and three other men were charged with delivering 100 grams of heroin and 50 grams of methamphetamine across state lines from February through November of last year.
Johnson pleaded guilty to felony drug distribution and felony racketeering related to prostituting five Washington women in Montana. His agreement with prosecutors dropped 13 other charges.
The drug charge carries a five-year minimum prison sentence and up to $5 million in fines. The racketeering charge could mean another five years in prison and $250,000 in additional fines.
Great Falls man killed while loading log
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a Great Falls man died when a 30-foot log he and a neighbor were loading onto a truck slipped and rolled over him.
Raymond Hitchcock of the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office says 56-year-old Fredrick Joseph Pilgeram died Tuesday from blunt force injuries.
Hitchcock’s statement Wednesday says the tongs Pilgeram and the neighbor were using to load the logs slipped. Pilgeram jumped off the truck as the log began to roll, but he lost his footing and the log rolled over him.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.