Qwest, union reopen contract talks
    DENVER - Denver-based Qwest Communications International met earlier this week with union officials, to reopen negotiations on extending a contract. The contract covers about 35,000 employees in Montana and 12 other states. Qwest hopes to avoid the kind of labor dispute experienced by Verizon Communications this summer. Qwest’s contract with the Communications Workers of America expires in August 2001. About half the work force is unionized. Qwest and union officials declined to comment on a negotiation agenda or timetable. When it acquired U.S. West in June, Qwest gained 25 million local phone customers in the West and Midwest.

Federal board questions BLM lease sale
    UNDATED - A federal board has ruled it likely that the Bureau of Land Management has violated environmental and administrative laws in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Last week’s preliminary decision by the U.S. Interior Board of Land Appeals says the BLM has been using an outdated plan to lease land coal bed methane development. Specifically, the 13-year-old plan does not address coal bed methane extraction. The BLM had contended that it is similar to oil and gas development. Two environmental groups had challenged the BLM’s lease offerings in the basin. They are the Wyoming Outdoor Council and Powder River Basin Resource Council. Tom Darin is an attorney for the Wyoming Outdoor Council. He says the board’s decision could jeopardize coal bed methane leases that were sold by the BLM under the outdated plan.