All briefs filed in Silvertip Zone case; Montana Supreme Court ruling is next

All briefs have now been filed in the Carbon County case before the Montana Supreme Court. In the case, Belfry landowners have challenged 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 Supreme Court has previously agreed to review the case. The Court will now decide whether to schedule a hearing or make a decision after reviewing the briefs.

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 County Commissioners held multiple public meetings before approving the zone in December 2014. They then decided to reject it in January 2015.

The Carbon County Commissioners held multiple public meetings before approving the zone in December 2014. They then decided to reject it in January 2015.

Earthjustice, an environmental nonprofit law firm, is representing the Silvertip landowners in their appeal out of the firm’s Livingston office. The Commissioners are represented by Doney Crowley PC of Helena and Carbon County attorney Alex Nixon, and the protesting landowners are represented by Raymond Kuntz of Red Lodge

You can read the briefs that have been filed in the case by clicking on the links below:

Why this is important
Montana law affords few protections to landowners against damages that can occur when oil and gas activity takes place near their homes:

Citizen initiated zoning (CIZ) is one of the few opportunities Montana citizens have to establish local regulations to protect their properties. It has been used effectively in places like Bozeman and Great Falls to establish regulations to protect citizens.

Yet that process is badly flawed. The Silvertip zoning case currently before the Supreme Court exposes some of the problems with the process. Silvertip landowners worked to meet all CIZ requirements. Their petitions were accepted by the Carbon County Commissioners, who then made the decision, after multiple public hearings, that the zone was “in the public interest and convenience,” as required by law.

Subsequent events that led the Commissioners to reverse their decision exposed some significant ambiguities in the process that will affect landowners in other counties. Cases like the current one can help to make the CIZ process more clearly defined in law so that the Silvertip landowners, as well as landowners in other communities, can take advantage of CIZ provisions to protect their properties.

Judge Blair Jones’ ruling in district court
Carbon County Resolution 2009-16, establishing requirements for citizen initiated zoning petitions
Timeline of events in the Silvertip case, with videos of all related public meetings
FAQ: What the petitioners want


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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1 Response to All briefs filed in Silvertip Zone case; Montana Supreme Court ruling is next

  1. Lt. Col (Ret) Rich Liebert says:

    Commissoner Prinnki and his cohorts adding to taxpayers expenses and frustration, and not the last time he was involved with the Supreme Court, as he was one of the principle architects of the Highwood Coal Plant DEBACLE in Cascade County/Great Falls that cost the city 15 million dollars lost, bankruptcy, huge increases to electric co-ops like Beartooth and others, and Prinnki was an SME trustee and SME was found – with Cascade County – in VIOLATION of the law when they SPOT zoned the coal plant and Supreme Court ruled that in 2010.

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