- Written by John Plestina
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.
- Written by John Plestina
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.”
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
The Roosevelt County Commissioners issued Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Thursday, July 24, which will remain in effect until further notice.
The following are prohibited until the restrictions are lifted: building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except within a recreation area; smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren or cleared area at least three feet in diameter.
All land within the city limits is exempted.
Other exceptions include: persons with a permit authorizing an otherwise prohibited act; those using liquid petroleum or LPG fuel devices that can be turned on and off; where otherwise prohibited activities are posted as allowed; and wildlife or law enforcement officers, firefighters or rescue workers in the performance of an official duty.
Other restriction or exemptions could be posted.
The commissioners will review the restrictions weekly.
- Written by Renee Oelkers
The Missouri River Rats held their recent meeting in the RC Complex meeting room Sunday, July 13.
Community members are encouraged to keep collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house in Billing, and bring them to the Roosevelt County Fair Aug. 6-9.
Pop tabs can be dropped off at the Missouri River Rats 4-H club booth in the stock tank loaned to the club from Gysler Hardware of Wolf Point
Lucas Oelkers gave a demonstration on the “Parts of a Rabbit.”
The next meeting of the Missouri River Rats 4-H Club will be held at the Roosevelt County Fair Grounds at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3.
- Written by By Audrey Stromberg and Cindy Lou Wade
RMC Staff -- Pictured are RMC’s Paul Williams, RN; Jay Lambert, PA-C ; Elizabeth Kleppen, PA-C; Karla Hunter, RN; Dr. Don Helland; and Amber Bond C-MA.
(Photo by Cindy Lou Wade)
Roosevelt Medical Center is providing DOT physicals that are required by federal law for all commercial drivers.
Those whose medical certificates expired on or after May 21, must be examined by a medical professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
Roosevelt Medical Center has announced that all three of its providers, Dr. Don Helland, Jay Lambert, PA-C; and Elizabeth Kleppen, PA-C, are certified to perform DOT physicals and are listed on the National Registry. All three are accepting patients.
In addition, Amber Bond, C-MA; Paul Williams, RN; and Karla Hunter, RN, are trained and certified to do urine drug testing and breath alcohol testing according to DOT certification standards. These services are available for DOT, non-DOT, pre-employment, random, post-accident [during regular clinic hours], follow-up and return-to-duty testing.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration established a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners with requirements that all medical examiners who conduct physical examinations for interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers meet the following criteria: complete certain training concerning FMCSA’s physical qualification standards, pass a test to verify an understanding of those standards, and maintain and demonstrate competence through periodic training and testing. The National Registry requirement was effective May 21, and requires that motor carriers and drivers use only those medical examiners on the National Registry and will only accept as valid medical examiner’s certificates issued by medical examiners listed on the National Registry.
FMCSA developed the National Registry program to improve highway safety and driver health by requiring that medical examiners be trained and certified so they can determine effectively whether a CMV driver’s medical fitness for duty meets FMCSA’s standards. The National Registry program is intended to help reduce the occurrence of crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses by making sure you are physically and mentally able to perform your job safely.
Certified medical examiners are listed on the National Registry website at https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Contact Roosevelt Medical Center at 787-6400 to schedule appointments for certified DOT physicals, urine drug collections or breath alcohol tests.