This letter from Charles Sangmeister appeared in the Billings Gazette on Sunday, January 19, 2014. The Northern Plains Resource Council and Carbon County Resource Council have filed suit to block a decision by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation to prevent the public from testifying on a proposed oil well permit for the Belfry area last month.
Board is too close to oil-and-gas industry
The Board of Oil and Gas represents industry, not Montanans. On Dec. 9, the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation canceled a scheduled public comment hearing on Energy Corporations of America’s oil well planned along the Beartooth Front. Because of their decision, affected landowners and concerned Montanans had no opportunity to officially voice their concerns about its development.
Given that the BOGC’s membership is composed of three representatives of the oil-and-gas industry, one landowner with mineral rights, one landowner without mineral rights, one from the public and one attorney, it’s clear the industry holds a majority over any other group impacted by oil and gas development.
Because of the oil-and-gas industry’s overwhelming representation on the BOGC, it’s not surprising they acquiesced to ECA’s last-minute demand to deny Northern Plains Resource Council and Carbon County Resource Council comments, because, although ECA and the BOGC had received the complete file, a certificate of delivery had not been included. When this was brought to the council’s attention, and the valid certificate promptly provided, it’s also not surprising that the board refused to accept it and allow the public hearing to proceed.
Apparently, the board is against hearing Montanans’ concerns and is in favor of ECA’s CEO’s publicly stated goal that he “would love to bring something like the Bakken . . . to the area in the Big Horns and other areas in Montana.”