The following Letter to the editor appeared in the October 12, 2014 edition of the Billings Gazette:
Although oil and gas companies would have you believe otherwise, the regulations they must follow while drilling do not protect landowners and their water supplies from contamination. They don’t even come close. The Energy Corporation of America has plans to “bring something like the Bakken” to the Beartooths. They’ve already begun the drilling process, and wells on private property are not being protected.
Right now, the best option for protecting private water supplies is for each landowner to pay hundreds of dollars for baseline testing of wells to show what chemicals are present in the water before drilling begins. Landowners must then pay to have wells retested on a regular basis (possibly for years) to learn if water has been contaminated.
And that is not enough. Oil companies don’t have to disclose what chemicals they use in fracking because the law protects that information as “trade secrets.” So even if testing shows contamination by a certain chemical, there is no way to prove the oil company used that particular chemical in the drilling process.
There’s something wrong with the law in Montana when landowners have to pay to protect themselves from damage done by oil and gas development, which produces millions of dollars for the oil and gas companies. County commissioners should require every oil and gas operator to pay for regular testing and monitoring of all wells near a drilling site to prove they are not contaminated. This testing should be done by independent companies, not companies chosen by the oil and gas developers. It is a cost of doing business here in Montana, and it is necessary to protect our property rights.
So, property owners bear all of the risk and reap none of the financial rewards unless they have retained some fractional interest in mineral rights. Hmm…. I thought our government was “by the people and for the people”…… not by the corporate interests and for the corporate interests.
From the Marcellus: Welcome to the real world. It’s not what they taught you in school! I read Preserve the Beartooth regularly, and it reminds me of where we were here four to six years ago. It is almost like an assault by a foreign army – the consideration for people, other resources and the future is the same. It’s all about winning.
The cycle is Exploit, Deplete, Depart. What drillers have done to the rest of the world is coming home to us.
Even the American Petroleum Institute recommends to industry members and the potentially affected public that water be tested for a minimum fourteen different listed classes of water contaminants from total dissolved solids to benzine, with dissolved solids being the least threatening. Oil & gas companies are not required to follow these guidelines, so, of course, they don’t.
In Montana companies are required to test contaminated water only for total dissolved solids prior to disposal. If benzine, for example, is up to 5 or 6 parts per billion or more (very lethal) that doesn’t matter.
Once the water is contaminated, it cannot be purified, only disposed of–maybe in another new injection well perilously close to another source of fresh water. If I had a lease, I would want it to require disposal somewhere other than on my land.
Too bad, also, that 3 million gallons of fresh water per well (industry average) is, in effect, permanently removed from drinking and irrigation.
County commissioners CAN establish additional requirements as Cascade County has done to require additional special permit for ANY industrial activity, and clearly articulated in county zoning regulations, which also address man-camps. If commissioners are truly concerned for their CONSTITUENTS – NOT developers – then they can should specify provisions and clear protocols where each zoning application (that’s why ya’ll need some sort of zoning) must meet public HEALTH (water) and SAFETY (roads, toxic chemicals, etc.) should be scrutinized in every detail. If you think you’re not being served well, then VOTE for who WILL care for citizens and your property rights!