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.
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
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.
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.
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.