A follow up on the June 23 public session at the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) on setbacks of oil and gas wells from occupied buildings and water sources.
After a two-hour special hearing with significant testimony, the BOGC said it would decide whether to pursue a setback rule making process at its meeting in August. That meeting will be held on Thursday, August 13 in Billings.
Click here to read a news report on the hearings with video.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the issue of setbacks, I recommend you read this post. I expect there will be additional opportunity for public input on the issue later this summer.
The following letter to the editor from Cindy Webber of Big Timber appeared in the June 28 edition of the Billings Gazette:
Oil and gas setback rule needed to protect Montana homeowners
I sincerely hope that the Montana Board of Oil and Gas will decide to begin rule making on setback requirements, as it was asked to do on June 24. Setback requirements restrict oil and gas wells from being placed too close to residences or water sources, in order to strike an equitable balance between development and landowner protections.
Currently, Montana has no setback requirements on private land. In contrast, our neighboring states of Wyoming, North Dakota and Colorado require a setback of 500 feet between an oil and gas well and residences. On federal land, the Bureau of Land Management prohibits oil and gas development within one-quarter mile (1,320 feet) of an occupied dwelling.
Why are setbacks necessary? First, split estate situations are common throughout the West — one person owns the mineral rights and another owns the surface land. Thus, residents may have no say about oil and gas development on their land. Montanans should not have to hire a lawyer to protect their land.
Secondly, studies have shown that the safest distance between a home and an oil well is one-quarter mile. Negative impacts from oil rigs include noise and light pollution, harmful emissions such as methane or diesel fumes, truck traffic and water contamination.
Only with citizen input can we find a Montana solution that adequately protects landowners.
As I listened to the oil and gas comments about how well their negotiations with land owners is working one question kept coming up for me. Why does the land owner have to negotiate to keep a well off of his doorstep or have to go before the board to resolve conflicts concerning set backs? It seems more logical for there to be a definite set back in place and let that be the basis of any negotiations. It is working in other states. The land owner may not be as well versed in the ins and outs or land use contracts which put him at a disadvantage. The land owner pays property taxes and is usually part of the local community which is not often true of a mineral owner. The land owner is the one who needs the protection.
Well said. If you don’t have regulation, the operator has license to run roughshod over the surface owner. There are too many examples of operators placing wells right next to occupied dwellings or water supplies.
Montana is the only energy state that doesn’t have setbacks. That needs to change.