Author Archives: davidjkatz

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.

Public opposition is going to keep the Keystone XL Pipeline from being built any time soon

If you thought Donald Trump was going to wave a magic wand and get the Keystone XL Pipeline built, you should recognize that there is no magic and the pipeline isn’t going to be constructed any time soon.

TransCanada Corp, the principal builder of Keystone XL, is still not prepared to offer a firm timeline for the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, its top executive said last week, even though President Trump granted the project a permit. According to TransCanada CEO Ross Girling, the pipeline sits in the company’s “long-term bucket” because of the remaining difficulty in getting it done. One of the key difficulties is the strong opposition of those concerned about the environmental impact of the pipeline.

Public opposition has kept the Keystone XL from being built so far, and it will continue to stand in the way, despite whatever the current administration in Washington wants to do. TransCanada recognizes that it will be take years to clear all the hurdles, and Trump’s order can be reversed by a subsequent US president, so the company is not willing to take unnecessary risk in committing to the pipeline. Continue reading

Posted in Community Organization, Politics and History | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

New scientific study shows fracking is strongly related to infant mortality

A new scientific study published this week in the Journal of Environmental Protection shows, for the first time, a clear correlation between fracking and the death of newborn infants.

The study showed that infant deaths decreased by 2.4% across the state during the period of the fracking boom from 2007-2010. However, in the 82,558 births in the 10 most-fracked counties, there was a significant increase in mortality (238 vs. 193, a 23.3% increase). These results are statistically significant at a 95% level of confidence.

According to the authors, that means 50 babies died over three years because they happened to be born near a fracked well. Stunning.

What’s more, the greatest increases in death occurred in counties with the highest dependence on private water wells, and in the counties with the greatest number of operator violations of wastewater disposal regulations.

This is a very important study for rural Montanans in areas where fracking is likely. They depend on private wells for precious water, they live in a state that is lax in protecting landowners, and the company most likely to come in and drill is a serial polluter with a track record of violations in the very counties in Pennsylvania that were studied.

To read more, click the link. Continue reading

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New study shows much higher number of oil well spills than previously reported

Warning: This article is based on peer-reviewed scientific research. Science deniers may want to read elsewhere.

A new study by US scientists shows that as many of 16% of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells spill liquids every year. According to the study, there were at least 6,648 liquid releases from these wells over a ten-year period from 2005-14 in just four states — North Dakota, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.

Around 50% of spills were related to the storage and movement of fluids via pipelines. According to Dr. Patterson, “The causes are quite varied. Equipment failure was the greatest factor, the loading and unloading of trucks with material had a lot more human error than other places.”

Over half of spills in North Dakota occurred at wells that had recorded a previous incident.

In a fragile ecosystem highly dependent on concentrated sources of water like the Beartooth Front, this data is highly alarming. It argues for local regulation that protects water, air, and soil required for agriculture and ranching. Continue reading

Posted in Fracking Information | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

What a bipartisan solution to climate change might look like

Most of us bemoan the lack of civility, negotiation, and compromise in politics. We’re so polarized that government does almost nothing to solve our most critical problems.

What’s particularly frustrating to those of us who see climate change as a major threat to the future of human civilization is that the clock is ticking. Global temperatures have risen about 1.5° Celsius since the beginning of the industrial age and are continuing to rise. The impacts will accelerate with each uptick in temperature: rising seas and coastal flooding, longer and more damaging wildfire seasons, more extreme and destructive weather, more frequent and intense heat waves, widespread forest death, costly and growing health impacts, severe drought, stress on clean water systems, disruption of food supplies, and much more.

What makes this so frustrating is that simple and elegant bipartisan solutions to this problem exist. Just last week a group of conservative Republicans proposed such a solution. The proposers aren’t ideologues or hacks, they’re Republicans with impeccable credentials.

To read about their solution and why it could make sense, click the link.

Continue reading

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Learning opportunity: Earthworks activist training, Thursday, 2/9 at 6pm

Earthworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development, is offering an online training webinar for environmental activists this Thursday, February 9, at 6pm Mountain. This webinar will cover: … Continue reading

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24 US Senators are trying to preserve the BLM methane rule. Why isn’t Jon Tester one of them?

Twenty-four Senate Democrats, led by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), have sent a letter to Senate leaders asking them to defend the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane and Natural Gas Waste Prevention Rule. Montana Senator Jon Tester … Continue reading

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Action Alert: Prevent the Montana Senate from taking landowner rights

A bill currently being considered in the Montana State Senate significantly reduces landowner rights in protecting property from damage from oil drilling on or near occupied buildings. SB93, currently before the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, would reduce notification requirements approved last year by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC). Those regulations require oil and gas operators to notify owners of “occupied structures” within a quarter mile of a well before drilling.

The BOGC rule, passed last December, was the result of a 20-month process involving Montana environmental groups, with input from the Montana Petroleum Association. The process grew out of the Legislature’s rejection in the 2015 session of SB177, which would have established a 1000 foot minimum buffer zone, or setback, between wellheads and a home, water well, or surface water. The bill did not make it out of committee.

Following the failure of the bill, Northern Plains Resource Council and others petitioned the BOGC to establish minimum setbacks to protect landowners. After 20 months of hearings, testimony by landowners, and committee meetings, the BOGC passed its new rule last December. The rule requires notification in advance of drilling to any landowner within a quarter mile of a wellhead.

To find out what you can do to keep this bill from passing, follow the link. Continue reading

Posted in Fracking Information, Politics and History | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Changed circumstances”: Montana Board of Oil and Gas reconsiders rulemaking on fracking chemical disclosure

Citing “changed circumstances,” the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) has decided to reconsider rulemaking on fracking chemical disclosure at its next meeting on February 1.

While the Board didn’t specify what had changed, one new circumstance is the legal action filed against the BOGC on January 17 by a coalition of Montana property owners, public health advocates, and conservation groups. The suit seeks more transparent disclosure of information to the public on chemicals used in the fracking process. Continue reading

Posted in Fracking Information | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Montana coalition sues BOGC over fracking chemical disclosure

A coalition of Montana property owners, public health advocates, and conservation groups today filed a legal challenge to the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC), which refused last September to grant the public greater access to information about the chemicals used in fracking.

Many chemicals used in fracking are toxic or carcinogenic to humans, who may be exposed to the chemicals through surface spills of fracking fluids, groundwater contamination, and chemical releases into the air. As we often show on this site, numerous studies have documented adverse health effects in people who live or use water wells near fracking operations.

In 2011 the BOGC put rules in place regarding chemical disclosure. These rules have two major shortcomings:

1. They allow oil and gas operators to withhold the identities of specific chemicals they use for fracking from the Board and the public until after fracking occurs.

2. Even after fracking occurs, operators may continue to withhold the identity of any fracking chemical information they claim is a trade secret. They can do this, according to the rules, without providing any evidence demonstrating that withheld chemical information actually qualifies as a trade secret under state law and with no oversight by the BOGC.

To read more about the lawsuit, click the link. Continue reading

Posted in Legal | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Update on Stillwater River Road rockslide

The Stillwater County Commissioners have issued an update on the Stillwater River Road rockslide. Standing rock from the slide has closed the road to through traffic from Absarokee to Nye since June 3, 2015.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge
According to the update, Stillwater County has awarded a contract to HI TECH Rockfall Construction, a general contractor specializing in rockfall mitigation and slope stabilization systems located in Forest Grove, Oregon.

For details on the work, click the link. Continue reading

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