Category Archives: Community Organization, Politics and History

Stillwater County Commissioners ignore County residents on issue after issue. This has to change.

The Stillwater County Commissioners appear to be so out of touch with their constituents that they can’t be bothered to respond to residents on issue after issue. Several recent examples show a pattern of inadequate communication as well as failures in planning, budgeting and executing complex projects.

This article looks at an oil and gas district, a County road closed by rockslide, a historic building renovation and a disputed tree cutting process as a pattern of failure to plan, execute, budget and communicate.

It’s time for change, and it’s up to voters to make it happen. The next County Commissioner election is this year, and it is a vacant seat. It’s time for County residents to step up and fill these seats with competent and responsible Commissioners.

Click to read more. Continue reading

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Gianforte plans to put industry in charge of the DEQ

According to an article in the Missoulian, gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte was in Great Falls last Thursday, where he told supporters that, as Governor, he will “focus more on customer service than enforcement, in part, by placing ‘someone from industry’ or business at the helm of state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).”

The issue here is an important one. The Montana Constitution guarantees each citizen the right to a “clean and healthful environment”. This is a fundamental right that has existed for over 40 years.

With regard to oil and gas issues, the DEQ stands alone as the state agency charged with protecting that right. According to the DEQ’s web site, the agency’s “ultimate goal is to protect public health and to maintain Montana’s high quality of life for current and future generations.”

Gianforte’s campaign is just getting started, and his position on the DEQ may change. But Montanans should be wary of electing a Governor who is going to undercut citizen rights. And local citizens along the Beartooth Front should increase their urgency in working with county government to create local regulations that build necessary protections at the local level. Continue reading

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Steve Daines joins the carbon reduction bandwagon! Wait a minute…

No sooner did we get the exciting news from Paris about the international climate agreement than my good friend Steve Daines sent me an invitation to attend the third annual Montana Energy Conference in Billings on March 30-31. According to Senator Daines, it’s an opportunity to “continue the discussion on state and national energy opportunities and provide an all-encompassing look at Montana’s energy potential.”

I was really excited to see that our junior Senator has jumped on the bandwagon to transition Montana’s energy portfolio from fossil fuels to clean energy. This kind of leadership is exactly what’s required to help us meet the treaty’s ambitious goals for reducing carbon emissions.

I went over to the event web site, where I discovered that the conference will have a “fresh new look and perspective,” and that “energy professionals, policy and decision makers at all levels” will take “an all-encompassing look at Montana’s energy potential.”

This is exactly what we need!

If you’re a regular reader, you know there’s more to this post. Click to read what this conference is really about. Continue reading

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The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation does not protect citizens from the damage done by oil and gas drilling. Here’s what local communities can do about it.

A small item on the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation docket for the organization’s December 9 meeting provides just a hint of major problems with the BOGC.

This state agency does not adequately enforce its existing laws and regulations with regard to oil and gas, and the problem has worsened as the Bakken oil boom has increased demands on the BOGC. If Montana residents want to protect themselves from the damage caused by oil and gas operations, they need to create their own local regulations.

Click to read the damning results of a 2011 Montana Legislature audit of the BOCG, and a report that shows the resources just aren’t there to enforce existing regulations. Continue reading

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Beartooth Front landowners present hundreds of signatures to Stillwater County Commissioners to set up oil and gas zoning district (with video)

On Tuesday, November 10, before a room packed with supporters, Stillwater County landowners from the Nye/Fishtail area presented hundreds of signed petitions to the Stillwater County Commissioners. The petitioners want to establish the Stillwater County Beartooth Front Zoning District to locally regulate oil and gas activity within the boundaries of the zone. The area of the proposed zone is large, approximately 80,000 acres, and includes about 600 properties.

The submission is the culmination of over two years of work by local landowners in this rural community, who were jolted into action in October 2013 when John Mork, CEO of Energy Corporation of America, promised to use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies to “bring a little bit of the Bakken” to the area.

Following Mork’s announcement, neighbors set to work learning about the impacts of oil and gas activity, studying Montana law and regulations, holding meetings to weigh possible alternatives, reaching broad consensus for action among landowners, and gathering signatures.

This is the first formal step in what promises to be a long process in Stillwater County. Click to find out more about what happened, see video of the meeting, and understand what’s next. Continue reading

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Montana elected leaders’ response to Keystone XL decision is unanimous, but not visionary

Say what you will about President Obama’s decision last week to reject TransCanada’s bid to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, it brought unity to Montana’s elected leaders. They were unanimous in their displeasure.

In their bipartisan agreement they claim to be fighting for jobs and economic development, which is admirable, but they are failing to lead in a way that will point Montana to long-term energy viability. Continue reading

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Where is Montana’s “man on the moon” leader?

In 1961 President Kennedy announced the US would put a man on the moon within a decade. The power of this vision, and the resources that accompanied it, enabled Neil Armstrong to take “one giant leap for mankind” eight years later.

In Hawaii, visionary leadership by Governor David Ige has led Hawaii to pass legislation that mandates that the state’s power grid must deliver 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of 2045, just 30 years away.

Where is that leadership in Montana? While state agencies are doing everything they can to protect the fossil fuel industry, our leaders happily promote an “all of the above strategy” that fails to explain how the state will transition from coal, oil and gas to renewables over time. We need man on the moon leaders who will put a stake in the ground saying what Montana will look like in 20, 30, or 50 years.

The means ruffling feathers. That means offending Big Oil and Big Coal. That means having a grown up conversation within the state about the future of energy.

We need a “man on the moon” leader to step forward. Continue reading

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Guest editorial by Bonnie Martinell: “Protecting property rights in Montana: You have to do it yourself.”

The following guest editorial by Bonnie Martinell will appear in the Billings Gazette on Tuesday, August 25. It concerns the failure of Montana government agencies to protect landowner property rights, and the efforts of a group of Belfry landowners to secure those rights in the Montana Supreme Court. Continue reading

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Montana Board of Oil and Gas refuses to take up setbacks

At its meeting on Wednesday, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) decided not to take up rulemaking for setbacks. Instead, they created a review panel to consider the issue. This is another example of a Montana state agency running roughshod over the rights of surface owners, whose only recourse is local regulation.

The record speaks for itself. The state of Montana has no interest in setting up reasonable protections for landowners from oil and gas drilling. It is up to local landowners to do it themselves, using provisions for citizen initiated zoning established in Montana law. Continue reading

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Silvertip landowners appeal to Montana Supreme Court

“The ability of neighboring landowners to unilaterally strip us of our right to protect our properties will remain an obstacle to local control throughout Montana unless the state Supreme Court decides this important issue.” Continue reading

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