A win for local activists: Carbon County passes county-wide oil and gas regulations

The Carbon County Commissioners today passed new regulations to protect citizens from the dangers of oil and gas drilling, a significant win for local activists. The Development Regulations update, the first since 1989, follows the County’s adoption of an updated Growth Policy last year.

Key provisions of the new regulations include:

  • Requires an approved site plan prior to the issuance of a conditional use permit, which would be a matter of public record before a permit is granted. This is not required today.
  • Provides landowners the right to receive baseline water testing, paid for by the driller before drilling begins. This is critical to determining the cause of any future contamination.
  • Establishes a 750-foot minimum distance, or setback, of oil and gas development from homes, and
  • Ensures dust control on roads used for hauling near drilling sites, with mitigation plans approved on a case by case basis.
Susann Beug, Chair, Carbon County Resource Council

Susann Beug, Chair, Carbon County Resource Council

Tireless activists
The regulations mark a rare Montana victory for the tireless activists in Carbon County who have worked on landowner protections for nearly three years since Energy Corporation of America announced plans to “bring a little bit of the Bakken” to the Beartooth Front. These activists, most members of the Carbon County Resource Council, an affiliate of Northern Plains Resource Council, have been relentless in pursuing change.

They attended meeting after meeting of the County Planning Board, working to adopt these regulations against opposition that gradually lost steam. They attended regular County Commissioner meetings, and testified before the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation. These regulations simply would not have happened without them.

In addition, a group of local residents organized and obtained signatures to protect their rights by establishing a citizen initiated zoning district in the Silvertip area of Belfry. When the County rejected the landowners’ application, the landowners filed suit and eventually took the case all the way to the Montana Supreme Court.

In the end, the constant pressure has paid off, and the Commissioners relented. This is a real win for Carbon County citizens. The new regulations afford genuine protections that are not provided by other Montana laws, and they would not have happened without the dedicated work of these local activists, people like Susann Beug, Deb Muth, Becky Grey, Carol Nash, Julie Holzer and Bonnie Martinell, and Maggie Zaback of Northern Plains.

The Commissioners, who began the process adamantly opposed to regulation, deserve recognition for adapting to the will of County landowners. Brent Moore, who managed the planning process, also deserves credit for being open to regulation from the beginning.

Still much more to do
But it is important to recognize that protection against oil and gas drilling is an endless battle, and these rules are a small step in a long fight. Specifically,

This is why local activists need to keep working on local solutions to ensure broader protections, as is happening in Stillwater County, where residents continue to grapple with the County Commissioners over procedural issues related to their application with citizen initiated zoning.

But in the meantime, it is important to recognize that local activism bears fruit. It’s not easy, and requires commitment over the long haul. All credit goes to those who worked to make this happen. Local residents should thank them for their work.

As Susann Beug says, “We know that oil and gas developers will be back, and when that happens we want them to do it right.”

The updated regulations have been posted to the Carbon County website. You can download a copy, or review the history of the development of the regulations.

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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12 Responses to A win for local activists: Carbon County passes county-wide oil and gas regulations

  1. wilderld says:

    A win for the good guys! Thank you, CCRC. And, a special shout-out to Bonnie Martinell. She led the petition for a citizen initiated zoning district and was willing to go to court to protect the integrity of the land and water. She was often criticized loudly and unfairly yet had the courage to continue on despite the demands for running her own organic farm.

  2. Bill Hand says:

    Very proud to know and be supportive of Bonnie Martinell. Susan Beug, Deb and Steve Muth, Becky Gray, NP staff Maggie Zaback and so many others at Carbon County Resource Council and Northern Plains working on this issue. Especially appreciate the work of David Katz and those that keep the message alive that we can do our part to ensure environmentally clean and safe natural resource development here in Montana. We must also recognize the courage of the Carbon County Commissioners to “step up to the plate”, listen to their constituents and do the right thing regarding this issue. We must all be reminded again and again that it can done with citizens’ concern, persistence, input and hard work. Congratulations!!!!!

  3. shalesense says:

    Congratulations David! Great job of keeping up the pressure. This wouldn’t have happened without all your hard work. It’s a good start and I think there is a bit more time for the market tide to turn away from the mess and into the renewable and electric economy future.

  4. SUSAN.MOSES says:

    This is such a tremendous win!!
    Sue Moses

  5. Bravo good citizens and Dave! Courage and persistence matters, and a long, hard ‘slog’ when dealing with Prinnki, as we dealt with HIM and SME’s disastrous Highwood Coal Plant which was a absolute DEBACLE! Citizens for Clean Energy salutes ya’ll!

  6. Dennis Loving says:

    Are you kidding me!! You threw your people under the bus!! What do you not understand about the word “NO”? You just gave the greedy oil companies a feather in their hat! WOW, I can’t believe this!

  7. Al Bloomer says:

    As a retired oil & gas exploration and production geologist and executive, I find these
    provisions reasonable. This a “win win” for any future operations. It has been my
    experience that legitimate exploration & production companies want to be good
    neighbors. If they plan on working in the region – they need to develop positive and transparent relationships.

  8. Pingback: New study links fracking to migraines, fatigue, sinus problems | Preserve the Beartooth Front

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