Hearing on Silvertip Zone case in Red Lodge on Thursday, June 4 at 1:30pm

A hearing will be held on Thursday, June 4 in Red Lodge in the case of Martinell, et al,  v. Board of County Commissioners of Carbon County, et al. This is the suit filed by residents of the proposed Silvertip Zone in Belfry against the Carbon County Commissioners, who denied the zone last January.

Judge Blair Jones. Billings Gazette photo.

Judge Blair Jones. Billings Gazette photo.

The hearing concerns the Commissioners’ request to dismiss the case. It is expected that each side will have an opportunity to argue its petition, and that the judge will issue a ruling at a later date.

The case will be heard in front of Judge Blair Jones in the Montana 22nd Judicial Court District in Red Lodge at 1:30pm

Background
On February 13, seven landowners filed a legal challenge to the Carbon County Commission’s rejection of their petition for land use regulations to protect their private properties from the harmful effects of oil and gas drilling.

The landowners collectively seek to establish the Silvertip Zoning District to cover nearly 3,000 acres of agricultural land north of Belfry, Montana. Creation of the district is the first step to establish solid protections for land, air and water quality, giving landowners an essential voice in the development of oil and gas on their properties.

Bonnie Martinell testifying before the Board of Oil and Gas. Billings Gazette photo

Bonnie Martinell testifying before the Board of Oil and Gas. Billings Gazette photo

The landowners are opposed by the Carbon County Commissioners and several landowners who protested the formation of the zone. Energy Corporation of America, which had been permitted to drill a well in Belfry, was dismissed from the case at the company’s request.

You can read a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the lawsuit here. Bonnie Martinell, one of the plaintiffs, wrote an explanation of why the zone is necessary here.

Alex Nixon, Carbon County attorney, will be arguing for the County Commissioners. Red Lodge Attorney Raymond Kuntz will be arguing for the protesting land owners, and Katherine O’Brien of Earthjustice will be arguing for the petitioning landowners.

Why this is important
There are several important landowner rights at stake in this case.

  • Montana law clearly provides landowners the right to establish citizen initiated zones. These zones allow them to establish the rules by which certain business is conducted on their own land. Does a Board of County Commissioners have full discretion to deny that right?
  • Can the rights of a majority of landowners be rejected by the protest of a minority of landowners in a district?
  • Can a Board of County Commissioners set unreasonable requirements for landowners who wish to establish a zone in order to block them from exercising their rights?

The final decision in this case will be important in determining the ability of local landowners in Montana to regulate oil and gas drilling on their own property.

This is important. Please come by to provide support if you can.

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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3 Responses to Hearing on Silvertip Zone case in Red Lodge on Thursday, June 4 at 1:30pm

  1. Wendy says:

    I think it is so sad..that the Commissioners value money more than the beauty that the landscape and nature offer in that resort area. Who is paying them to oppose the preservation???? The Commissioners are really not representing the PEOPLE OF CARBON COUNTY…So WHO are they representing other than their private interests.

  2. Pingback: Timeline of events leading to legal action by Silvertip landowners | Preserve the Beartooth Front

  3. Pingback: BREAKING. Decision in Silvertip Zone case (video) | Preserve the Beartooth Front

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