Stillwater River rock slide reminds us of the dangers of drilling

There was a rock slide out our way on the Stillwater River last week. It blocked Stillwater River Road at Midnight Canyon, and probably will for a while, so traffic to Absarokee will have to take the long way around until County crews can figure out how to safely clean up the mess.

Stillwater slide 2You can read more details and subsequent updates at the Stillwater County News.

Hanging rock at Stillwater slide. Photo: Stillwater County News, courtesy Carol Arkell

Hanging rock at Stillwater slide. Photo: Stillwater County News, courtesy Carol Arkell

These things aren’t rare. The powerful geological forces that cut the upper Stillwater River from Sioux Charley Lake past Woodbine Falls and through the narrow Gorge, beyond the Beehive toward Absarokee are constantly subject to reversal by natural forces. Rain, snow and and the constant flow of the River slowly wear away at the hills, causing erosion and slides. When you have rural unpaved roads cutting through the mountains, you’re going to get falling rock. And rural communities are particularly vulnerable, since unexpected slides can shut them off from the rest of the world for long periods of time.

Earthquakes associated with drilling
We also know that oil drilling is associated with earthquakes. It is well documented by peer-reviewed scientific data and tracked by the US Geological Survey that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of quakes due to waste injection wells associated with fracking in many different areas of the United States.

So it seems logical to be concerned about earthquakes in Stillwater County, particularly in the area near Dean and Fishtail, where there are a number of dirt roads that could be impacted by slides, just like Stillwater River Road. You just wouldn’t want to increase the risk of earthquakes that could cause slides that might cripple the local economy and endanger residents.

This is a very specific concern, and one that could be alleviated by local regulation. The solution is to not allow injection wells in the area.

The problem is that there’s no current mechanism to do this. There’s nothing in federal or state law that enables it, and nothing in the permitting regulations or the past history of the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation that makes prohibiting injection wells at all likely.

So you would expect that local residents would want to put rules in place that prohibit injection wells in the area. It’s a reasonable concern, and local regulation is a reasonable solution.

That’s exactly what Stillwater landowners are doing. They’re currently gathering signatures from local landowners to present to the Stillwater County Commissioners to put a citizen initiated zone in place. The zone would establish local rules for oil drilling that would protect local water, the local economy, and landowner rights.

This is just good sense. The way of life that has developed over the years in this part of Stillwater County is unique, and it needs to be preserved. Since federal and state law don’t offer these needed protections, local citizens have every right to take action to protect their own communities.

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.
This entry was posted in Community Organization, Politics and History, Fracking informaation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stillwater River rock slide reminds us of the dangers of drilling

  1. lynnbob says:

    David, Self determinism was the one cornerstone of democracy. If that is taken away by big business, then the citizens of this country are back to where they were in the old countries. What was the point of the revolution and over two hundred years of freedom if we lose that right? The freedom of Owning your own property and your own destiny was the goal of every immigrant who came to America and still is today. The genius of democracy was that the collective intelligence of all of us decides the direction we take. Throughout history before this, a few decided the fates of all and it always led to tyranny and eventually some sort of bloody revolution to cause change for the common good. Democracy is a constant bloodless revolution for change for the common good. Any time in history when a few decide for the many, you are on the road to bloody revolution. Just look at the rest of the world today. This is worth fighting for.

    Bob Hilten

    • davidjkatz says:

      Very eloquent. I remain optimistic that we will succeed by convincing our elected representatives to act in the best interests of those who elected them, not the oil and gas companies.

  2. Pingback: Stillwater County residents: public meeting on Stillwater River Road closure this Thursday | Preserve the Beartooth Front

  3. Pingback: Update on Stillwater River Road rockslide | Preserve the Beartooth Front

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