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Montana university leaders gearing up for UM President search

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christensen(MISSOULA)- Montana's university system leaders are gearing up to find the new permanent president for the University of Montana.

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christensen will head the special search committee that was announced this week.

The Missoulian reports Interim UM President Shelia Stearns will also work on the efforts to find someone to fill the opening created with the firing of former UM President Royce Engstrom earlier this winter. 

Other members of the committee will represent students, faculty and administrators. 


Weather change should help MT air quality

Helena was the only place showing "unhealthy" air Wednesday afternoon(MISSOULA)- A combination of early morning fog and afternoon haze that's been occurring across Western Montana should be coming to an end, as an incoming system helps to end inversions that were setting up over the valleys. 

Tuesday, warmer air aloft was beginning to trap smoke and other particulates in the valley floors, beginning to create air quality that was unhealthy for young children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems. 

But by mid-day Wednesday, Montana DEQ monitors were only showing air quality problems in the Helena valley. Most other locations, including the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys, and Northwest Montana were showing "moderate" air quality. 

With the forecast for a return to mix rain and snow Thursday it's expected slick driving conditions will be more of a problem than air quality for the remainder of the week.


Montana gas prices creeping up 

Montana's gas prices are starting to move upward again, after a winter that has seen most pump prices remain stable. 

The gas tracker site says the average retail price for regular gas in Montana jumped 0.3 cents this past week, to an average of $2.31 a gallon. That compares with the national average that has increased 1.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.27 a gallon.

Including the change in gas prices in Montana during the past week, prices Sunday were 60.0 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 2.7 cents per gallon higher than a month ago.

According to GasBuddy historical data, gasoline prices on February 13 in Montana have ranged widely over the last five years setting at $1.71 a gallon in 2016, $1.95 a gallon in 2015, $3.03 a gallon in 2014, and $3.12 a gallon 2013 and $3.04 a gallon in 2012.

"The era of falling gasoline prices will likely be coming to an end soon at a gas station near you,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for "Not to say declines are completely done, but over the next few weeks we'll likely see more times when stations are raising their prices then dropping them, thanks to gasoline demand that will soon begin recovering and crude oil imports that will soon reflect OPEC's lower output


Helena man charged with leaving children in burning car

MTN News photo(HELENA)- A Helena man is facing four different charges with authorities accusing him of leaving his children inside his car after it caught fire. 

KXLH TV reports Samuel Cecil Cole was charged with four different felonies including child endangerment and also assaulting his girl friend last week. 

Prosecutors say Cole's car caught fire after it got stuck in the snow and he was trying to free it. They say Cole ran away, even though two children were still fastened in their car seats inside the burning vehicle. Reports indicate the children were rescued by Cole's girlfriend.


Group files suit to force release of documents in public lands dispute

(HELENA)- A government accountability group has filed suit in Helena, accusing Senator Jennifer Fielder of Thompson Falls of breaking the law by not releasing documents explaining her work with a Utah-based public lands group. 

The Campaign for Accountability filed the suit against Fielder and the Montana Legislative Services Division Monday. 

The watchdog group has been pressing for the release of information about Fielder's work as CEO of the American Lands Council for the past year. CfA first sought the records last February, seeking to find out the extent of Fielder's work with the group, which advocates alternative management for public lands. 

The statement on ALC's website says the group seeks a "lawful, peaceful path to better, more accountable management of our public lands and natural resources."

In the suit, CfA maintains Fielder and the state are violating the Montana Open Records Act by not releasing Fielder's emails and other documents. 

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