Category Archives: Community Organization, Politics and History

Must attend! Stillwater County Planning Board: Wednesday, August 7, 7pm

The next meeting of the Stillwater County Planning Board will be held this Wednesday, August 7, at the Stillwater County Pavilion in Columbus at 7pm. Please plan to attend. This is a critical meeting at which the Board will consider a draft set of regulations on a county initiated zone along the Beartooth Front in southern Stillwater County.

It is important for proponents to be in attendance and voice their support. It is expected that there will be opposition to the zone in attendance.

Note that the meeting is at a new location. The Stillwater County Pavilion is at 328 E. 5th Avenue in Columbus.

Click on the link to read the proposed regulations and view a presentation that shows the base standards the landowners are asking for.

Please try to attend if you can. We are at the critical stages of winning approval for this project that landowners have worked toward for six years. We need to show Stillwater County officials that your support for our efforts is unwavering. Continue reading

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Stillwater County News: “Workable framework” adopted for potential southern county zone

(Note: The following article appears in the July 11, 2019 edition of the Stillwater County News. It is reprinted here with permission of the Publisher. Subscription normally required to read article. To subscribe, click here.)

“Workable framework” adopted for potential southern county zone

“As Stillwater County is in a state of growth, the commission is looking into any and all options to help protect the county against out of control growth. While this may happen through some sort of zoning, it also may not. The commission’s goal is to welcome growth, but make sure it does not negatively effect the county as a whole.”

-County Commission Chairman Mark Crago

A “workable framework” has been adopted by the Stillwater County Planning Board, the latest action in the yearslong process spearheaded by residents to create a zone in the southern end of the county.

 At the July 3 County Planning Board meeting, the Beartooth Front Coalition, a group of citizens from southern Stillwater County, presented a proposal for the creation of a zone that would regulate the surface impacts of oil and gas development.

The County Planning Board is considering the creation of the zone due to a mutual agreement between the Beartooth Front group and the county, who are opposing parties in a lawsuit regarding the invalidation of the group’s petition to create such a zone.

The lawsuit is on hold as the board considers the zone. After much discussion between the public and board members, the proposal was accepted last week by a 5-2 vote of the board and will act as a framework for the future as draft zoning regulations come to the board. Continue reading

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Learning Opportunity: Absarokee, Tuesday, May 21, 7pm

For the last six years local activists have focused on developing a responsible approach to oil and gas drilling in the rural West — places like Stillwater and Carbon County in Montana. Our argument has been that we need to act in advance of drilling to make sure that we are not overrun by heavy industry that is poorly regulated in Montana. We have struggled to work with local officials, who have not always been responsive to this approach.

Dr. Julia Haggerty, professor of geography at MSU, is an expert in this area. She has done extensive research on the communities of the West and how they respond to change. In her presentation, at the Absarokee Cobblestone School at 7pm on Tuesday, May 21, she will explore, using energy development as her subject, how local rural communities can cope with change that comes in an instant.

Come on out to learn and discuss this important issue with your neighbors.
Continue reading

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Stillwater residents give County Commissioners an earful on proposed policy (video)

What occurred yesterday in Columbus is what happens when elected officials ignore the people who pay their salaries.

After four years of stonewalling the hundreds of landowners who petitioned to set up a citizen initiated zone along the Beartooth Front, the Commissioners held a public hearing on Tuesday on a proposed policy that would forever block any group from doing the same thing.

As you would expect, people took the opportunity to express their indignation, not only about the proposed policy, but about the pattern of excuses, inaction, and delay that had brought them to this point.

To read more and watch video of the hearing, click the link. Continue reading

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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

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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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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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Environmental implications of a Donald Trump presidency

Regardless of where you stand politically, Donald Trump’s election yesterday was an unexpected shock. There is no way to know all the environmental implications of his election, but we can expect significant deviation from the policies of the last eight years, and a return to the environmentally ruinous policies of the Bush/Cheney era.

This occurs at a time when public understanding and acceptance of the need to combat climate change is growing. We should be moving quickly to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy to reduce carbon emissions; instead it appears we will moving back to the era of “drill baby drill.”

Based on what I have heard and read, here are some of the known positions and statements of Donald Trump on the environment.

Continue reading

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Billings Gazette editorial on fracking chemical disclosure

Last week the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation turned down a request from several conservation organizations and other residents to require increased disclosure of fracking chemicals.

This is typical for the BOGC. Earlier this year they declined to establish minimum setbacks of wellheads from occupied buildings, leaving Montana as one of the few oil and gas producing states with no required buffer zones.

Montana remains one of the most poorly regulated oil and gas producing states, largely because the BOGC is designed to conserve oil and gas interests, not the rights of the state’s residents. The fight to reform the BOGC is central to changing the balance of power in the fight to protect the state’s residents from unsafe drilling in this poorly regulated industry.

Today the Billings Gazette responded to the latest BOGC failure with a scathing editorial.

To read it, click the link. Continue reading

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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.

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.

The constant pressure has paid off, and the Commissioners have relented from their initial opposition to regulation. 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 and Bonnie Martinell, and Maggie Zaback of Northern Plains.

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. 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. Continue reading

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