The Billings Outpost

Much ado about Corette plant, Rehberg’s ride

New Environmental Protection Agency regulations combined with economic factors have forced PPL Montana to mothball the J.E. Corette coal burning power plant in Billings.

So went the little lie.

It was true that the EPA has announced new emission standards for coal-fired electric plants, effective in 2015. It was also true that economic factors had hurt Montana PPL’s profits in Billings.

It is also true that EPA has been slowly cracking down on power plants that spew tons of poison into the atmosphere. The Corette Plant has been spewing for 40 years.

Finally, it is true that economic factors have hurt the Corette Plant. The region is overstocked on generation. Supply exceeds demand. The plant was shut down “a substantial period of time in 2012 because of oversupply of power in the Northwest markets,” PPL spokesman David Hoffman told the Billings Chamber of Commerce.

Now comes the BIG LIE.

Republican anti-Tester ads blame all these factors on President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. PAC money pouring into the state like Mormon crickets riding a gale paid for versions of the ad on each of several TV channels, in each of several daily newspapers.

Montana’s most conservative talk show hosts spread the word but were not paid. They eagerly worked for free.

Meanwhile, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., announced that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a series of bills designed to “stop the war on coal.”

“President Obama campaigned on a platform of destroying coal jobs, and his Senate allies have been willing accomplices as he uses executive authority to fulfill that disastrous effort,” Rehberg said.

Drunken dunkin?

A Washington, D.C., ethics watchdog group, Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW) wants a peek at the presentence investigation report that followed a boat wreck on Flathead Lake.

The owner-operator of the boat, Greg Barkus, a former state senator, cut a deal and pleaded no contest to one felony. He received a sentence of four years probation and a $29,000 fine.

CREW wants the report released to have the report released to the public, saying it may contain information the public should know about the “honesty, integrity and judgment of its elected officials.”

Rep. Denny Rehberg, not Barkus, is the real target of CREW’S probe. Rehberg, two of his congressional staffers and Barkus’ wife, Kathy, were passengers in the boat and were injured in the crash.

A Rehberg campaign spokesman noted Thursday that the candidate was merely a witness in the criminal case against Barkus, and is “fine with whatever the court decides” on releasing the report, which was compiled by a state probation officer.

Spokesman Chris Bond called CREW a “front group for Washington Democrats,” and said the timing of its request – 20 months after the sentencing and four weeks before Election Day – “shows that this is much more about their liberal political agenda than it is about anything else.”

Anne Weismann, chief counsel for CREW, said Wednesday the group targets members of Congress from both parties. Its latest annual report on the “most corrupt” members of Congress listed eight Republicans and four Democrats.

When asked why CREW didn’t ask for release of the report earlier, Weismann said the group wasn’t aware of Rehberg’s involvement in the case “until very recently.”

What’s up with that?

Three incarnations of a Viagra ad flashed past the small screens in recent weeks. The first, of course, was the one selling a remedy for erectile dysfunction. A handsome actor rides up on a Harley-Davidson, catching the eye of mature woman.

The second running was initiated by Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill. Hill rides a motorcycle through a scenic landscape that looks very much like the Viagra country.

The final iteration ran on the internet and was a parody of the first, starring Hill again. Bloggers are asking, “Is Hill trying to woo the blue hairs?”

• • •

Drunk or sober, the boat wreck will not hurt Rehberg. Whiskey does not kill Montana politicians; it only makes them stagger. The most dangerous of the flotsam and jetsam orbiting the Rehberg campaign is the lawsuit filed by Denny and his wife, Jan, after a fire on their land reignited and burned more pine and grass.

Too late, the congressman remembered the hornet’s nest stirred by Sen. Conrad Burns’ attack on firefighters. He explained, apologized and blamed his wife. Firefighters appeared in campaign ads to say, “We’re good guys. Rehberg’s not one.”

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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