The Montana Legislature approved a bill requiring the state’s utilities to buy 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015. The green-power initiative was part of the campaign platform of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D, who took office this January (HCN, 11/22/04: Election Day surprises in the schizophrenic West). Montana is the 19th state in the country to enact a renewable energy standard.

A geothermal power company is taking the Valles Caldera National Preserve to federal court. GeoProducts of New Mexico seeks to reopen several old geothermal wells in the reserve to generate power for the Los Alamos weapons laboratory (HCN, 12/22/03: National preserve is in hot water). On April 7, the company, which holds one-eighth of the mineral rights under the preserve, filed a lawsuit against the Valles Caldera Trust, which manages the 89,000-acre New Mexico ranch, purchased by Congress in 2000.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., have introduced separate bills to exempt hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (HCN, 12/20/04: Conscientious Objectors). The version of the energy bill approved by the House on April 21 includes a similar exemption. "Frac’ing," pioneered by Halliburton, uses chemicals such as diesel fuel and benzene to increase the production of oil and gas wells; critics fear it could contaminate underground drinking water supplies. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency declared that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a threat to drinking water, but the agency’s inspector general recently opened an investigation into whether that announcement was politically motivated.

William Jensen Cottrell, 24, has been ordered to serve eight years in prison and pay $3.5 million for his part in destroying or damaging more than 100 Hummers and SUVs in Southern California in 2003 (HCN, 9/15/03: Burning one for the road). Cottrell is a graduate physics student at the California Institute of Technology; two of his accomplices are believed to have fled the country.

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