Wanted: More pastures for overpopulated wild horses
CHEYENNE — A classic image of the American West — wild horses stampeding across the landscape — not only has endured through the years but has multiplied past the point of range damage. Through May 3, the U.S. government is seeking more private pastures for an overpopulation of wild horses.
Many consider rounding up wild horses to live out their lives on private pastures a reasonable approach to a tricky problem. Wild horses, after all, not only have romantic value, they are protected by federal law.
You need a lot of fenced-in land, enough to sustain anywhere from 200 to 5,000 healthy horses. Exactly how much land depends on pasture quality as determined by the government, but you can safely assume several hundred if not thousands of acres.
Participants in the private-pasture system must live in 14 Western and Midwestern states, from eastern Washington to the Texas Panhandle.
And: These horses aren't pets. They've had little exposure to people. Many are at least 5 years old and therefore not ideal for training and individual adoption or sale, other options available through the BLM.
Adoptions and sales through the Wild Horse and Burro Program have recovered to at least 3,400 a year after hitting a low of about 1,800 in 2014.
State mandates carbon-free power by 2045
ALBUQUERQUE — Landmark legislation mandating that New Mexico get all of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045 has cleared its last hurdle and is expected to be signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The Democratic-led House voted 43-22 following a lengthy debate that centered on the consequences of shutting a coal-fired power plant that has been a major economic driver for decades.
The measure sets aggressive quotas for renewable energy production and would establish funds to ease the economic pains of closing the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.
Republican lawmakers from the area warned that close to $80 million in annual wages and benefits will be lost once the San Juan plant and an adjacent mine are closed in 2022.
Public Service Co. of New Mexico — the state's largest electric utility and the plant's operator — plans to replace the electricity lost by the closure of the San Juan plant with a mix of natural gas, solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear power.
Under the legislation, PNM and other public utilities will have to get at least half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That would jump to 80 percent by 2040.
The 100 percent carbon-free mandate would kick in five years later.
State seeks to close loophole in contribution law
HELENA — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is backing state legislation that aims to prevent foreign money from influencing state elections by closing a loophole created by the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that allows corporate spending in elections.
Bullock said the bill will outlaw foreign spending in Montana elections by preventing foreign corporations, governments and nationals from hiding behind domestic shell companies to make such contributions.
Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to political campaigns, but Bullock said foreign nationals have evaded it by setting up shell corporations in the U.S. The bill would ban political spending by corporations considered to be "foreign influenced," which is determined by ownership.
The proposed bill says that if the shell corporation's owners can't make donations in Montana elections, neither can the corporation. It gives the commissioner of political practices the authority to investigate unless the donations may violate federal law, in which case the investigation would be turned over to the Federal Election Commission.
Conservative lawmakers vote to condemn abortion law
TOPEKA — The conservatives who dominate the Kansas Legislature voted on March 13 to tell New York's leaders just how much they hate the Empire State's new law expanding abortion rights, ignoring Democrats who called the endeavor a toothless waste of time and money.
The Kansas House voted 85-38 to approve the resolution, which declares that the New York law offends Kansas' and the nation's values and incites "abuse and violence toward women and their unborn children." The state Senate approved the measure on a 27-13 vote a month earlier.
The votes reflect long-standing Republican and anti-abortion majorities that have given Kansas some of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions.
States, including Kansas, regularly send resolutions to Congress decrying federal policies or urging action, only to see them largely ignored. But criticism of other states is less common.
The New York law permits women to end their pregnancies after 24 weeks for health reasons, when the state's previous law said a woman's life had to be at risk. Abortion rights opponents say the new law would allow abortions up to the moment of birth.
Democrats who opposed the resolution also showed their displeasure by proposing unsuccessful amendments to rewrite it.
One amendment condemned "any politician who has had an affair with an adult film star and then paid money to keep the affair a secret," a reference to allegations against President Donald Trump. Another condemned "any politician who searches outside the borders of this state to find problems."
Bills passed to discourage Keystone XL rioting
PIERRE — South Dakota is poised to approve laws aimed at potential protests against the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline, seeking to prevent disruptive demonstrations like those against the Dakota Access pipeline that cost neighboring North Dakota nearly $40 million and led to hundreds of arrests beginning in late 2016.
South Dakota's Republican-dominated Legislature rushed two bills to approval in three days.
The bills would require pipeline companies to help pay extraordinary expenses such as the cost of policing during protests and aim to pursue money from demonstrators who engage in so-called "riot boosting," which is defined in part as encouraging violence during a riot.
But the measures have sparked opposition from Native Americans tribes who say they weren't consulted. The legislation comes after opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline staged large protests that resulted in 761 arrests in North Dakota over a six-month span beginning in late 2016. The state spent $38 million policing the protests.
The Keystone XL pipeline has sparked fierce opposition from environmental groups, Native Americans and some landowners since it was first proposed over a decade ago. President Donald Trump approved a federal permit for the project in 2017, reversing former President Barack Obama's decision to reject it amid concerns over greenhouse gas emissions.
The 1,184-mile pipeline is intended to ship up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
A federal judge in Montana in February largely kept in place an injunction that blocks TransCanada from performing preliminary work.