Read the expert testimony against the permit that the Board of Oil and Gas ignored: Global Environmental Comments
From the Billings Gazette
By TOM LUTEY
The Montana Board of Oil and Gas permitted a controversial horizontal well east of Belfry on Thursday.
The vote came after 90 minutes of testimony from neighbors concerned about potential damage from hydraulic fracturing. The well will be drilled by Energy Corp. of America.
Boardmember Peggy James Nerud, of Circle, cast the only vote against the permit.
The drilling plan for the Beartooth Front has drawn protests from area residents and environmental groups including the Carbon Country Resource Council and the Northern Plains Resource Council.
Denver-based ECA’s chief executive John Mork has announced plans to drill up to 50 horizontal oil and gas wells on the east and west ends of the Beartooth Front, plus more wells into the Bighorn Basin, mostly in Wyoming.
Northern Plains Resource Council Press Release
Board of Oil & Gas ignores landowner concerns, OKs oil well
‘We got to speak, but weren’t heard’
BILLINGS, Mont. – Despite the testimony of 10 landowners and affected citizens, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) today voted to approve a permit for the Hunt Creek deep-shale well near Belfry on the Beartooth Front.
Testimony from neighbors of the drill site testified about flash floods, dry weather patterns, sandy soil, and insufficient wastewater pit lining. The local residents know the landscape and the many omissions in the proposed permit. It was clear that nobody from the BOGC or staff had visited the well site.
After an hour of testimony, the BOGC decided the original permit was acceptable. On Administrator Tom Richmond’s recommendation, members voted 6-1 to permit the well.
“We got to speak but we weren’t heard,” said Deb Muth, Chair of Carbon County Resource Council, an affiliate of Northern Plains Resource Council. “We talked about the dangers of drilling in a flood plain, the lack of water available to drill, and the desire to have baseline water testing in place before they start. They thanked us for our comments, then ignored our many cautions as they washed their hands of this well and the residents that go with it.”
Chairwoman Linda Nelson said it is up to landowners to test their water at their own expense, even though well tests for drilling chemicals cost thousands of dollars.
Richmond said Energy Corporation of America (ECA) could follow best practices for drilling recommended by the American Petroleum Institute, however the BOGC decided not to include these as a condition nor any other conditions landowners sought for the permit. The BOGC has the power to put conditions on or even deny a well, but today, they pushed those duties onto other agencies, and said it was powerless.
“This may be just one well, but it represents so much more.” said Muth. “BOGC’s job is to prevent oil and gas operations from harming nearby land or resources, and it did not do its job today. It failed to listen, and once again stood up for industry, not the people.”