The Missoulian today reported that despite an announcement last week by Sen. Max Baucus, BP Canada is still interested in drilling for coal-bed methane in the Flathead Valley just north of Glacier National Park. A Baucus spokesman hinted that the company may have “lied to two US Senators.” BP Canada plans to drill in the adjacent Elk River drainage, in hopes of proving that they can one day drill in the pristine Flathead without impacting water quality. In the meantime, they plan to continue with environmental studies in preparation for future drilling. A subsidiary of British Petroleum, BP Canada is headquartered in Calgary. The Missoulian article quoted Canadian lawmaker Bill Bennett as saying ”the decision to remove the Flathead from the tenure process signals a recognition by our government that there is a difference between the Flathead drainage and the Elk drainage.” He went on to say The Flathead is, in fact, a very special place. I know that.”
The Big Sky Coalition, a Bitterroot-based organization that advocates large scale thinning on National Forest lands, plans to host a daylong symposium in Hamilton on March 1 to examine the conversion of woody biomass into ethanol and methanol, as well as burning it to generate heat and electricity. Executive Dir. Sonny LaSalle reported that the Darby school district is on track to save $100,000 on their energy bill this year by using biomass to heat their building. In Colorado, a plant is already being planned that will begin converting beetle-killed trees into cellulosic ethanol by 2012. The conference will take place all Saturday at the Hamilton, Montana fairgrounds.
Montana ranks fifth among the states for its potential wind power. Only the Dakotas, Texas, and Kansas are windier. The largest wind farm in the state opened in 2005 at Judith Gap. This farm has 90 1.5 megawatt turbines which extend more than 260 feet in the air. A Texas company is proposing a 300-megawatt wind farm near Martinsdale with more than 100 towers. At least 6 other major wind farms are being planned for Montana, with a total production of 900 megawatt if all of the projects are approved. Large wind farms are also being considered for Shelby and Glasgow.