NOTE: The meeting tonight has been postponed due to weather and lack of a quorum. It has been rescheduled for December 16.
Here’s something concrete and specific you can do to protect your community from unregulated oil and gas development: attend the regular meeting of the Carbon County Planning Board tonight (Tuesday, November 25) at 7pm at the Carbon County Courthouse, 102 North Broadway in Red Lodge.
This meeting is important because Carbon County is in the final phase of updating its growth policy for the first time since 2009. This meeting represents a last opportunity for public input into the plan, which will affect County policy for the next five years, and will directly impact the central issues addressed on this web site: oil and gas exploration; the protection of water, air and soil; the protection of private property rights; and the long-term economic viability of the County.
The final draft is expected to be approved by the County Commissioners in January.
You can download the current draft of the 2014 Growth Policy by clicking on the graphic at right. The document is great reading — well crafted and full of information about the history, land, economy and people of Carbon County. If you like charts, graphs and maps, you’ll find them here.
I recommend you read through it before the meeting and consider giving your input on areas that you think are important.
After reading through the document, here are some areas I think you may want to consider and give voice to at the meeting:
- One of the five key goals in the growth plan is to “develop the county’s natural resources balancing economic development with environmental responsibility (p. 52).” One of the key objectives for achieving this goal is to “promote policies and strategies to mitigate potential impacts without deterring natural resource development.” Ways to do this include:
- Coordinate with landowners to enable citizen-initiated zoning districts (enabled through MCA 76-2-101) to mitigate potential impacts of natural resource development.
- Consider possible impact mitigation policies in the development regulations.
- Coordinate with industry, landowners and local leaders to promote “good neighbor” strategies.
- It is absolutely essential that these provisions be included in the growth plan, since one of the key elements of citizen initiated zoning is that the rules of a citizen-initiated zone must be drafted to be consistent with the county growth plan. Inclusion of these objectives will help make sure that this is the case as we move forward with the Silvertip Zone.
- Objectives could also be added to strengthen this section. Examples might include:
- Acquisition of baseline data on air, water and soil quality in areas that are to be developed, and development of programs to mitigate any contamination or erosion of quality
- The inclusion of the right specifically stated in the Montana Constitution to a clean and healthful environment in Carbon County.
- If you read pp. 57-60 of the plan, a process for review is explained for any change of use in land — from agricultural, residential, or recreational to commercial or industrial. The review must cover agriculture, water use facilities, local services, natural environment, wildlife habitat, and public health and safety. Every time a landowner wants to subdivide in a way that means a change of use, these criteria must be considered. However, if the change is to natural resources development, all regulation moves to the state level, with no County requirement for involvement. As we have often explained, the State does not concern itself with these areas of review. The County should apply these same standards of review for land converted to oil and gas development in the growth plan.
- The importance of maintaining tourism in the County, and making sure that any oil and gas development is done within the context of not allowing a conflict that would lead to an environment inhospitable to tourism. While tourism is mentioned in the growth plan, its essential importance to the County is underplayed, and the potential for conflict between tourism and the heavy industry of oil and gas development is not emphasized.
I encourage you to read the draft, attend the meeting, and give voice to concerns that are important to the long-term future of Carbon County. This is a way you can have a concrete impact on the future of oil and gas drilling.
If you can’t attend, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CTA Architects Engineers has been hired by Carbon County to manage the process of putting together the growth plan. The company compiled this video of citizen input: