Report from an attendee at the mixer in Billings last night:
Nearly 100 supporters of the Beartooth Front packed the Fieldhouse Cafe in Billings on Thursday to protect the Beartooths against irresponsible oil and gas drilling. The event was sponsored by the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council (YVCC).
Speakers included Deb Muth, chair of Carbon County Resource Council (CCRC); organic farmer and affected landowner Bonnie Martinell; and Stillwater Protective Association (SPA) member Jane Moses. The clear theme was the need to protect the economy and way of life of the area’s small towns and rural communities from an industry that has left irreparable damage in its wake in nearby Wyoming and North Dakota.
A number of attendees expressed surprise that the area is so poorly protected by state of Montana institutions. As an example, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (MBOGC), which has become a rubber stamp for well permits, is comprised in large part of members who stand to gain financially from the expansion of oil and gas drilling. And once wells are permitted, the state has only six inspectors to oversee more than 43,000 wells.
Becky Mitchell of YVCC was the final speaker. She urged people in Billings to get involved by joining local organizations that are actively working on the campaign to demand corporate responsibility from Energy Corporation of America, which has a record of repeated violations and fines in other states.
She also urged people to attend the February 27 MBOGC hearing on the Belfry well permit. This hearing is taking place only because of a lawsuit demanding more transparency from MBOGC, and it’s important for people to express their concerns about expanded drilling.
The event was covered by KTVQ in Billings. You can see their video coverage here.