Report from the 1/30 Petroleum Industry Forum in Red Lodge

I received comments from a number of people who went to last night’s Petroleum Forum at the Elks Club in Red Lodge. A quick summary follows. People who attended are welcome to describe their experiences in the comments below.

The meeting room was packed. Estimates of attendance ranged from 100-150 people, roughly mixed between those in favor and opposition to drilling expansion.

My take from hearing the reports is that this wasn’t really a forum. Those in favor listened to the presentations, which made the positive case, and left. Those who wanted to raise concerns were frustrated by the length of the presentations and the lack of time left to get satisfactory responses or the chance to even voice their concerns.

Nobody felt the pro-drilling presentations were completely out of line. They were informational, but they were just one-sided. Everyone did seem to single out Tom Richman of the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation as a poor representative for the pro-drilling side. He was alternatively described by attendees as a “dismissive smart ass,” “someone who tried to sugar coat everything,” “completely sure he has all the right answers,” and “so unaware of the contents of the Belfry permit that I wondered if he had even read it.”

Attendees felt that there were inadequate or unclear responses to concerns about water supply and contamination, chemical spills, and monitoring and reporting.

This is a wasted opportunity, of course, and seems like a classic political mistake. More than most issues, this is one that is going to affect the entire community. Commissioner Prinkki is just kidding himself if he thinks he can steamroll people who are concerned about the local economy, their water, their property values, and their way of life.

His constituents deserve an opportunity to have a thorough public airing of the issues. The community needs to come up with a solution that meets the needs of everyone – ranchers, farmers, small town residents — not just the oil companies.

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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10 Responses to Report from the 1/30 Petroleum Industry Forum in Red Lodge

  1. Griffin, Harry says:

    David:

    Thank you for your comments and analysis of the meeting. I have written to you before to express my concern that we are continually behind the 8 ball. I have asked lawyer friends who are familiar with are knowledgeable about environmental law about we can be most effective in stopping this fracking disaster. My friend in MT who has had considerable success in ND litigation has advised us the hire the PR firm in the state who is most conversant with the politicians in the state and lobby the devil out of them to get this train wreck stopped. Equally important, he suggests that we should utilize the PR firm to mobilize public opinion and beseige state and local officials and our reps in Washington and let them know that this is the most vital issue to a great many of their constituents and that unless they are with the anti-fracking voters, then don’t expect to remain in office. I suspect that very strongly worded petition signed by an enormous number of MT voters across the state would have a remarkable impact on MT politicians. Along with this effort, we should hire the best available mountain state lawyer to bring a legal action to put every conceivable legal road block in the path of the ECA and cohorts. If you agree, advise me how we can put this strategy into effect.

    Cordially,

    Harry L. Griffin, Jr.

    PS

    I have contributed a $1,000 to the Defense fund, have persuaded others to contribute a like amount, and will continue contribute and seek to have others also do so.

    • Karen Saint says:

      I had hoped to be at the forum but couldn’t make it. I live near Cooney and that is where the water flows out of the Beartooths and is collected for irrigation. We have a thriving ecosystem here and the busiest State Park, and I’m concerned what will happen when the water gets contaminated… and if we frack, I’m absolutely positive it will. Facts are facts. Fracking is not safe, and ignoring the facts does not make them go away. I just wish the pro-fracking folks could see past their GREED and FEAR to see them.

      Karen Saint

    • KnoxAnn Armijo says:

      PleAse don’t give up. You are fighting the most greedy bunch in the world. They have invaded country after country for far less riches. I would suggest the aquifers and Clark’s Fork are already deeply polluted from all the gas and oil drilling in Clark, WY and Elk Basin. The water in Belfry was undrinkable for me. My heart is heavy for the beautiful place I grew up in.

  2. davidjkatz says:

    This was sent to my email. Sender asked to have this posted: “Good scientific water presentation, good geology presentation. Much more data needs to be collected about the inner workings of our world. There is not a rush to get all of the hydro fracked natural gas out today. Everyone needs to look at all of the consequences. Thanks to all the speakers…
    over hundred people the room was packed lots of good questions another Elks meeting tax free who’s paying infrastructure etc.”

  3. Alex Heyneman says:

    The attitude was very present… a couple of photos spoke volumes. Greg Mohl slipped in an old picture of a sign posted saying “Hippies use side door” w/ an arrow pointing to the side. The other was Jessica Senas’ photo of a large open space, green grass, and pristine mountains in the background, and in the foreground an oil well… Her comment about this was ” and this is my favorite…” These really spoke out to what the attitudes toward opposition are.

    Alot of information was put out, and it is clear to me that we need to understand this info. in order to have meaningful debate. The statement ‘this is a very different animal’ was used frequently when comparing the Bakken to the Beartooth Front. It looks to me there will be major efforts to distance one from the other, so being prepared for a different type of argument will be important!

    • davidjkatz says:

      Alex,

      Thanks for posting. I have also heard that the Beartooth “is a very different animal” from the Bakken. When drilling proponents say this, what I believe they are saying is that this area is very different geologically, and drilling will happen on a very different scale. I have no doubt that this is true.

      But while the extraction might be different, what goes with drilling is the same no matter where it occurs: spills and potential water contamination, flaring, truck traffic, strains on roads and railways, inadequate housing and schools, drug use and prostitution, and so on.

      Oil people look at the drilling. Stillwater and Carbon County residents need to look at the total picture.

  4. lynnbob says:

    It seems outrageous to me that the petroleum industry is even considering drilling and fracking under the most seismically active spot I the lower 48!! That the state government is promoting this is even worse!! To do this without public comment from the people it affects borders on criminal. There was an earthquake two months ago in North Dakota where they have never had one. Seismologist attributed that quake to fracking by the oil industry there. Fracking under the edge of a super volcano is insanity!!! Bob Hilten

    >

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