CS Masthead

Fire Restrictions Issued For State Parks, Fishing Areas

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks adopted Stage I fire restrictions for all FWP fishing access sites, state parks and wildlife management areas throughout Roosevelt County, Thursday, July 31.
Restrictions are also in place in Valley County and include the Glasgow area.
Until further notice, the following activities are prohibited: building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
Exemptions include persons with written permits specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act, individuals using devices solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off and persons conducting activities in designated areas where the activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers and members of organized rescue and firefighting forces are also exempted in the performance of an official duty. All land within a city boundary is exempted.
Camp fires will be allowed in established steel fire grates only if posted.

Missoula Man Gets Eight Years For Bakken Construction Fraud

Jonathan Lee Oliver, a 41-year-old Missoula resident, was sentenced to 100 months in prison for diverting money he received from customers in eastern Montana, North Dakota and other places, and using the money to buy himself a house, several vehicles, two jet skis, a luxury motor home, a diamond engagement ring and various other items.
On Feb. 25, Oliver pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and structuring.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Timothy J. Racicot, the government told the court that in the fall of 2010, Oliver rented an office and warehouse space and began conducting business under the fake name of Jon Walker.  He solicited payments from several victims for the construction of steel buildings, primarily in eastern Montana and North Dakota, including in the area known as the Bakken.  
He entered into contracts with the victims, received millions of dollars in advance payments, and completed only one steel building. Rather than build the structures, Oliver used a substantial amount of the victims’ money to buy personal assets, including a down payment on a house, several vehicles, two jet skis, a luxury motor home, a diamond engagement ring and various other items.  
On multiple occasions, Oliver directed his employees to tell victims that a certain phase of the construction of their building was completed in order to induce the victims to send additional installment payments, when in fact the phase had not been completed and Oliver’s business lacked the materials necessary to complete the project because so many of the funds had been diverted by Oliver for personal expenditures.
The counts that Oliver pleaded to involve money he took from a victim totaling over $130,000 and Oliver’s purchase of a brand-new Subaru Tribeca Limited for $33,950.  Oliver also pleaded guilty to withdrawing $9,950 in cash from the bank to avoid the bank’s currency transaction reporting requirements.
“The Bakken is a ripe environment for fraudulent activity and Jonathan Lee Oliver saw that.  Project Safe Bakken has and will continue to prosecute fraudsters like Oliver, whose greed directly harms citizens seeking to invest and grow their money in legitimate business ventures,” said Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana.
At sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy entered a money judgment against Oliver in the amount of $6,468,186.33.  The money judgment represents the forfeiture of substitute assets and corresponds to Oliver’s ill-gotten gains. The judge also sentenced Oliver to three years supervised release following his prison sentence.
The prosecution was part of Project Safe Bakken, a cooperative effort between federal and state prosecutors and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and North Dakota. The investigation in this case was conducted by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.

$30 Million Cleanup Needed -- Proposed Refinery In Roosevelt County To Serve Bakken

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The developer of the former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point envisions an environmental cleanup of the site and construction of a new refinery, built to current standards that could accommodate 20,000 barrels daily, and a rail terminal, both serving the Bakken Oil Field.
The long abandoned Kenco Refinery opened in 1963 and closed in 1985. The site, located about seven miles east of Wolf Point on Montana Hwy. 13, is about one half mile south of U.S. Hwy 2.
Ken Elliott and Steve Houston, doing business locally as Wolf Point Green LLC, purchased the 110-acre former Kenco site in December 2011 with plans to build what Elliott called a “clean-energy campus,” that would include a new refinery and rail terminal within about four years, possibly less. Longer range plans include a wind farm and solar and geothermal energy production that would partially power the refinery. There are also plans to build a hotel and greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site.
Elliott said he envisions oil industry development in Montana to increase beyond current development near the North Dakota border that includes development that has been going on in the Culbertson and Bainville areas.
“There are 15 crude oil terminals in North Dakota. We’ve got none in Montana,” Elliott said of the need to build a rail terminal.
“One of the things the Burlington Northern is interested in working with us is the risk of fires and we’re out here, not in a community,” Elliott said.
A refinery currently under construction near Dickinson, N.D., would be the first since the 1970s. It is slated to open before a refinery in the Wolf Point area could be completed.
Currently, much of the Bakken Oilfield’s crude oil is shipped south for refining.
Elliott said a refinery in eastern Montana would be a source of producing diesel fuel, which is needed by farmers and ranchers.
Known as the Kenco Refinery, both Kenco Refining Inc., and Tesoro Petroleum Corp., operated the former refinery during the 22 years it was in operation. Ken Luff, now of Denver, Colo., was the principal owner.
That original refinery was on between 25 and 30 acres of the 110-acre property.
The remains of a crude oil furnace that vented to the atmosphere, other now unusable equipment in various states of disrepair, the remains of Kenco’s office building, several tanks and remains of tanks, and acres of oil and diesel fuel saturated soil remain at the site. In some places, oil has soaked several feet beneath the surface, some not visible, while there are oily patches on the ground in some locations.
“There have been 11 [environmental] studies on this site,” Elliott said.
“We’ve got a heck of an environmental cleanup,” Elliott said.
A cleanup of an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil is estimated by a recent study to cost about $30 million. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost at $25 million in 2008.
The EPA declared the property a Superfund cleanup site in 1997. It is a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.
“They’ve had one environmental issue after another here,” Elliott said.
Wolf Point Green is working with the Wolf Point headquartered Great Northern Development Corporation and the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition. The two organizations are administering the Clean Up Revolving Loan Fund and Assessment Grant for hazardous substance cleanup.
“Martin [DeWitt, executive director of GNDC] and his group reached out to us in 2011. He suggested we take a look at the refinery,” Elliott said.
“I met with the EPA a couple of weeks ago in Denver,” he said.
“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 jobs that will be created with this,” he said.
He said a million barrels of oil a day reflects about 50 percent of what is in the ground.
“Everybody in this part of the state knows what it’s like in North Dakota. It’s a disaster,” Elliott said.
He said eastern Montana could get ahead of it with new infrastructure, housing and schools.
“We work all over the country. The county commissioners here have been great,” Elliott said. “The tribe has been very good working with us.”
Elliott said Wolf Point Green has the support of GNDC, the Fort Peck Tribes and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Tester chairs the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

GNDC Celebrates 20 Years Serving Business And Development In Northeast Montana

Celebrating 20 years since its inception, Great Northern Development Corporation touted its advancements and recent accomplishments during GNDC’s annual meeting at the Wolf Point Golf Course, Friday, July 18.
Executive director Martin DeWitt said GNDC was notified during late May that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields program awarded $600,000 for Brownfields assessments for environmental cleanups on behalf of the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition’s 15-county area.
GNDC is working with several governmental and private entities for environmental cleanups through the Brownfields Program, including the city of Wolf Point to clean up the former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance in downtown Wolf Point, that was destroyed by fire in March.
“We’ve also been working a lot with Wolf Point Green,” DeWitt said.
Wolf Point Green purchased the former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point in 2011, after GNDC approached the owners about cleanup and development of the former refinery, now closed nearly 30 years. Wolf Point Green wants to develop the site for the proposed Fort Peck Clean Energy Campus that could include a new oil refinery, rail terminal, wind farm, and solar and geothermal energy production. There are also long-range plans that include greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site and a commercial fish farm.
A likely Brownfields program site, about $30 million would need to be funded to cleanup an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared the former Kenco refinery a Superfund cleanup site in 1997.
“Martin [DeWitt] and his group [GNDC] reached out to us in 2011. He suggested we take a look at the refinery,” Ken Elliott, a partner in Wolf Point Green, told the annual meeting.
“I met with the EPA a couple of weeks ago in Denver,” Elliott said.
He said he told EPA officials what his plans are for the 110-acre site.
“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 jobs that will be created with this,” Elliott said.
He said a million barrels a day of oil reflects about 50 percent of what is in the ground.
“Everybody in this part of the state knows what it’s like in North Dakota. It’s a disaster,” Elliott said.
He said eastern Montana could get ahead of it with new infrastructure, housing and schools.
“We work all over the country. The county commissioners here have been great,” Elliott said.
He added that Fort Peck Tribes officials have been good to work with.
In other business, DeWitt told the annual meeting that he was in Cul-
bertson in April when Gov. Steve Bullock announced that he would propose a $45 million grant funding bill to the 2015 Legislature to finance infrastructure improvements and expansions for Bakken Oilfield development impacted local and tribal governments, and water and sewer districts.
“One of the plus things that came out of that announcement was reducing the revolving fund,” DeWitt said.
Bullock proposed reducing the state Revolving Fund interest rate from 3 percent to 1.25 percent.
A man from Bainville said, “They could probably use all of that $45 million in Bainville.”
In other business, the board approved the $1.114 million GNDC budget for the next fiscal year.
Officers were reelected for another term. They are: president, Connie Eissinger; first vice president, Richard Kerstein; second vice president, Duane Kurokawa; and secretary/treasurer, Frank French.
The United States Economic Development Administration and the state of Montana have certified GNDC as a nonprofit regional development corporation that serves a six-county economic development district, consisting of Roosevelt, McCone, Valley, Daniels, Sheridan and Garfield counties. The Fort Peck Tribes is also a member.
GNDC was incorporated in October 1995 and has remained in continuous operation.

Emergency Services Director Concerned That New Federal Rules For Oil Trains Might Not Be Enough

Roosevelt County’s Disaster and Emergency Services Director questioned whether proposed new federal safety regulations for trains carrying crude oil go far enough to protect Wolf Point and other communities that rail lines pass through.
Dan Sietsema said he didn’t think the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed new safety rules for moving flammable liquids by rail, including crude oil and ethanol, would increase safety.
“Letting us know what came through last week [proposed rule changes] doesn’t do any good for us,” he said.
“If you had a large fire on the railroad track, half of Wolf Point would probably burn,” Sietsema said.
An issue he cited was that Wolf Point is divided by railroad tracks.
“One of Wolf Point’s problems is the proximity of the fire hall and the rail line. It’s only a block away,” Sietsema said.
Just over a year ago, 72 cars from a train carrying 1.9 million gallons of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in eastern Canada derailed and exploded, ravaging about a square mile a Canadian town of about 6,000 people. Forty-seven people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
There were also several fiery oil train crashes in the U.S. during the past year, in North Dakota and other states. Oil train accidents accounted for more than $10 million in damages during the first five months of 2014, nearly tripling the 2013 total.
Details of the proposal were made public last week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx laid out what he called the Obama administration’s “new world order.”
The proposed rule changes include mandating that railroads share information with state emergency managers, phasing out of older and less stable rail tank cars during the next two to five years, lowering speed limits for trains, improving brake systems and addressing concerns that Bakken crude oil is more volatile than oil from other regions.
The proposed changes also include provisions affecting ethanol.
The U.S. DOT proposal does not include some steps safety advocates have called for, including requiring oil producers to extract the most explosive gases from crude prior to shipping.
Foxx said during the announcement that the DOT’s responsibility is to ensure safety. He did not say when the rule changes could go into effect.
Burlington Northern/  Santa Fe director of public affairs  Matt Jones said the BNSF would not comment at the current time and has been referring inquiries about proposed federal rule changes to the Association of American Railroads.
Jones provided The Herald-News with the AAR written response to the proposed rule changes, dated Wednesday, July 23.
According to the prepared statement, the AAR is probing the details of the proposed federal rulemaking and will comment at a later date.
AAR president/CEO Edward R. Hamberger made the following statement: “This long-anticipated rule-
making from DOT provides a much-needed pathway for enhancing the safe movement of flammable liquids in the U.S. railroads are playing a critical role in our country’s progress toward energy independence, moving more energy products like crude oil and ethanol than ever before. The fact that the proposed rule incorporates several of the voluntary operating practices we have already implemented demonstrates the railroad industry’s ongoing commitment to rail safety. We look forward to providing data-driven analyses of the impacts various provisions of the proposal will have on both freight customers and passenger railroads that ship millions of tons of goods and serve millions of commuters and travelers across the nationwide rail network every day.”