Category Archives: Uncategorized

Action alert: New developments in landowner lawsuit against Stillwater County; what you can do to help

A district court hearing in the Beartooth Front landowners’ suit against the Stillwater County Commissioners, originally scheduled for May 23, was postponed by mutual agreement of the parties. The reason for the postponement was a positive development in discussions between the landowners and the Commissioners.

The two sides agreed that the landowners would propose a county-inititiated zone to the Stillwater Planning Commission on June 5. If the Planning Commission recommends forming the zone, which would regulate oil and gas activity along the Beartooth Front, and the Commissioners approve it, the lawsuit would become unnecessary.

If the zone is not formed, the lawsuit will continue.

You can provide critical support by attending the Planning Commission meeting and speaking up to show that residents are behind the landowners’ efforts. Read the post to find out more, and forward this post to others who you think might attend. Continue reading

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Action Alert: Please write the Stillwater County Commissioners by Thursday, November 22

This is a request for action from those of you in Stillwater County. The County is in the process of updating its growth plan, last updated in 2007. They have done a poor job of soliciting input from the public, and the current draft of the plan is inadequate in many areas.

Comments are due no later than THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, so please act quickly. Continue reading

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Action Alert: Your voice needed on new Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation chemical disclosure rule

Your help is needed. The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) will be holding a public hearing on its proposed new rules for fracking chemical disclosure. Quite simply, these proposed rules are not strong enough to adequately protect landowners and it is important for you to lend your voice to make sure landowners’ voices are clearly heard.

There will be a live hearing in Billings on September 17 at 2pm. Please come if you can, or send your email comments to the Board no later than September 24.

To find out more, click the link. Continue reading

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Make your voice heard TODAY. Tell the Stillwater County Commissioners how you feel about landowner rights

Please make your voice heard. The Stillwater County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing to consider their proposed policy for citizen initiated zoning. The proposed policy is not a policy at all, but a thinly-veiled attempt to keep any … Continue reading

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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.

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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Interview: The Gas Patch with John Fenton

I have a number of topics percolating, but I wanted to share this video that found its way to my mailbox today. It’s an interview with John Fenton of Pavilion, Wyoming about his experiences with the oil and gas industry and how they have changed his life, first for worse and then, in a transformational sense, for the better.

We’ve written about John in the past. We’ve described his personal story and how politics has trumped science in Pavilion, and encouraged you to attend an event in Red Lodge at which he spoke.

But we can’t do justice to John’s story the way he can. The video is an eighteen minute description of the events that changed his life. I can’t recommend it enough to those who live in communities where oil and gas drilling is being considered. It is sobering and hopeful, and perhaps it will spur you to action. Continue reading

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New study links fracking to migraines, fatigue, sinus problems

New research suggests that Pennsylvania residents with the highest exposure to active wells are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a combination of migraine headaches, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms and severe fatigue.

The research reminds us that Montana is one of the few oil and gas producing states with no mandated minimum distances, or setbacks, between wellheads and occupied buildings. The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation recently considered the issue of setbacks, but decided to require only notification of residents when a well is about to be drilled nearby. Carbon County recently became the first county in Montana to pass a county-wide setback restriction as part of the County’s growth plan revision.

This study is part of a growing body of evidence that oil and gas drilling has substantial negative impacts on human health. Montana remains woefully behind in protecting its residents from these health effects. Continue reading

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The Yellowstone River closing: this is what climate change looks like

A microscopic parasite is destroying the fish population of the Yellowstone River system, causing Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to take the extraordinary step of closing a 183-mile stretch of the Yellowstone and its tributaries to all water-based recreation (fishing, wading, floating, tubing, boating). The closure affects the river from Gardiner, at the north end of Yellowstone Park, to Laurel, and includes the Stillwater River.

Why such a huge outbreak, and why now?

There are those in Montana who will say that this is an unfortunate chance outbreak of this disease, but it isn’t. This is what climate change looks like. It means that, as the conditions that promote diseases like PKD proliferate, so will outbreaks of the disease.

For those of us concerned about the future of this region it is a reminder that we need to guard against activities that can threaten our water. This includes oil and gas drilling, but many other activities as well. As Governor Bullock says, “We must be guided by science.”

The science is clear.

Continue reading

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McClendon’s death leaves legacy of profit at the expense of landowners

A shocking story out of Oklahoma tells of the death of oil executive Aubrey McClendon, who was killed in a violent car crash yesterday, just one day after he was indicted in federal court for violations of anti-trust laws.

While no cause of death has been declared, it appears McClendon drove his SUV at a high rate of speed directly into a wall. According to police, “There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the roadway, and that didn’t occur.” McClendon was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

McClendon is a legendary figure in the fracking boom over the last decade, and we’ve written about him several times on this site. He made billions in fracking at the expense of property owners, pushing to drill every possible well with little regard for environmental impact.

The point is to caution landowners that McClendon’s death is an object lesson in how oil companies care about profits, not the rights of landowners. If you want to protect your rights, it is critical to set the terms upon which drilling occurs on your property. Mechanisms exist in the law to do that, but you have to be vigilant and act together as community to make it happen.

Landowners in Carbon and Stillwater counties along the Beartooth Front are currently engaged in battles to do this. The fight is long, but the goal — long-term preservation of a way of life — is worth the effort.

To read more, click the link. Continue reading

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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.

This case is important because 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.

To read more about the case and review briefs that have been filed, click the link. Continue reading

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