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Secure justice. The new federal courthouse was dedicated in downtown Billings just 27 months after construction began, a record short time for building a federal courthouse. The five-story courthouse features updated security for the courts and other agencies housed in it, along with energy-saving design. The entire project cost $80 million.

Drier than ever. This year is on track to end with the lowest amount of annual precipitation ever recorded in Billings. Parts of southeastern Montana are even more parched. Fire danger remains high as the calendar turns to autumn, so be careful in Montana’s outdoors.

Going the distance. More than 900 runners participated in Montana Marathon events, including the marathon, half marathon, 10K and kids run.

Drug money. The Montana Attorney General’s Office and four large pharmaceutical companies settled lawsuits alleging that they inflated the prices of medicine paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. The settlement of $1.67 million will be split three ways: $986,000 for grants to Montana clinics and hospitals to pay for prescriptions needed by uninsured or underinsured Montanans, $480,000 to the Office of Consumer Protection in the attorney general’s office, and $200,000 to the state Medicaid program.

More mining. The State Land Board voted unanimously to lease state-owned coal to the Signal Peak Energy mine south of Roundup. Signal Peak agreed to pay an upfront bonus of $3.6 million. Royalties and annual fees are expected to bring the state an additional $15 million as the 12 million tons of coal is mined.

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