“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.

The coalition had originally petitioned the Board in July 2016 to close gaps in the existing disclosure rules and ensure that Montanans who live, ranch, and farm near fracking operations have access to chemical information they need to safeguard their property rights, health, and environment. The petition specifically requested that the rules be changed to require operators to disclose specific chemical information before fracking occurs and require operators to justify their trade secret claims. But on September 23, 2016, the Board denied the petition in a one-page decision.

The current Montana rules, adopted in 2011, do not require companies to reveal the chemicals to be used in fracking until after drilling occurs, and allow companies to withhold the names of chemicals they regard as “trade secrets.” There is no review or oversight of trade secret claims under these rules.

The Board of Oil and Gas Conservation considering but not acting. Photo: Casey Page, Billings Gazette

The Board of Oil and Gas Conservation considering but not acting. Photo: Casey Page, Billings Gazette

The decision to review rulemaking on February 1 is not the same as agreeing to begin the rulemaking process, however. The agenda item is stated only as “Consideration of initiating rulemaking on hydraulic fracturing disclosure.”

Chemical disclosure is just one example of an area in which Montana fracking rules lag behind other oil and gas producing states. Wyoming, for example, requires companies to submit to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission a full list of chemicals they plan to use in fracking operations on a well-by-well basis. Companies also have to report the concentration of each chemical used once the job is done. In addition, any trade secret claim in Wyoming is reviewed to determine whether it is legitimate. Not surprisingly, the Commission instituted the last rule in response to a lawsuit by environmental groups.

In Montana the BOGC is not even informed of the identities of chemicals excluded as trade secrets.

Montana remains one of the only oil and gas states that requires no minimum distance, or setback, between wellheads and occupied dwellings. In response to a petition for rulemaking last year, the BOGC refused to establish a minimum setback, opting only to require notification in advance of drilling near an occupied dwelling.

For those desiring to attend, the BOGC hearing will be held on Wednesday, February 1 at the BOGC hearing room at 2535 West St. Johns Avenue in Billings.


On Preserve the Beartooth Front:
Montana coalition sues BOGC over fracking chemical disclosure
Billings Gazette editorial on fracking chemical disclosure
Time for the Montana Board of Oil and Gas to step forward on setbacks
What’s wrong with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation

Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation documents:
Docket for February 1-2 meetings
Information on BOGC’s previous consideration of rulemaking on fracking chemical disclosure

Download the lawsuit filed earlier this month

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.

Leaking storage pit near Lindsey, MT

Leaking storage pit near Lindsay, MT

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 have documented 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.
Spill at Cutbank Creek. Photo; Destini Vaile

Spill at Cutbank Creek. Photo; Destini Vaile

“Montanans have the right to know what chemicals oil and gas operators plan to pump into the ground on their farms and ranches and near their homes so they can take steps to protect their property and health,” said Earthjustice attorney Katherine O’Brien, who is representing the coalition in the lawsuit. “Operators just down the road in Wyoming already are required to disclose this information, so we know that broader disclosure is workable for industry.”

The coalition petitioned the Board in July 2016 to close these gaps in the existing disclosure rules and ensure that Montanans who live and farm near fracking operations have access to chemical information they need to safeguard their property rights, health, and environment. The petition specifically requested that the rules be changed to require operators to disclose specific chemical information before fracking occurs and require operators to justify their trade secret claims. But on September 23, 2016, the Board denied the petition in a one-page decision.

“My family home is less than a mile away from numerous fracked oil wells on the edge of the Bakken oil field,” said plaintiff Dr. Mary Anne Mercer, a public health expert who has witnessed fracking operations on her family ranch. “I worry about what the potentially toxic solutions used for fracking are doing to the soil and water of the land that I’ll always call home.”

Matt Skoglund, director of National Resources Defense Council’s Northern Rockies office in Bozeman said, “As it stands today, the Board of Oil and Gas is approving fracking chemicals for use in Montana without even knowing what the chemicals are. That is completely unacceptable, and it needs to change.”

The BOGC has 40 days to file a response. We’ll keep you updated on developments.

Download the lawsuit.

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.

Photo: Carol Arkell

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.

The contracted work includes:

  1. removing (scaling) loosened and/or unstable blocks of rock from a near-vertical, approximately 250- to 300-foot-high slope adjacent to Stillwater River Road
  2. drilling weep holes into the rock slope
  3. making reasonable effort to prevent scaled material from entering the Stillwater River
  4. removing, hauling, and disposing of existing slide debris covering the road
  5. removing, hauling, and disposing of debris generated by the scaling operations
  6. removing any rocks which land or come to rest in the channel of the Stillwater River below the ordinary high water mark.

Stillwater River Road rockslide photo2

Work will begin on January 9, weather permitting. Once the project has begun, the contract allows for a sixty day project time, with possible delays for poor weather.

When the work is complete, the road will be reopened, approximately two years after the slide occurred. Not a shining example of effective county government, but residents will welcome the completion of the work.

The County Commissioners ask that residents recognize that this is dangerous work, and request that people stay out of the area while the work is being performed.

Previous posts on this topic:
Stillwater River rock slide reminds us of the dangers of drilling
Stillwater County residents: public meeting on Stillwater River Road closure this Thursday
Important documents for Thursday’s meeting on the Stillwater River Road closure
Stillwater County Commissioners ignore County residents on issue after issue. This has to change

Update, January 11
The Commissioners have updated the status to indicate that work on the road project is delayed due to weather conditions. Work is now scheduled to start on February 20.

Update, February 27:
I received a communication from County Commissioner Mark Crago that the start of work has been postponed to March 27.

Update, April 3:
The County Commissioners sent out the following update on April 3:

            On March 23, 2017, DES State Hazard Mitigation Officer Nadene Wadsworth was in Columbus to discuss progress on the FEMA grant for the rockslide project.  The FEMA grant is a “Pre-Disaster Mitigation” grant or PDM grant.  Stillwater County began the application process for this grant in May 2016.  Please recall Stillwater County also applied for this type of FEMA grant in 2015 but the application was denied so the County had to re-apply again in 2016.

            As with most grant requests, it is a time consuming process.  Stillwater County’s rockslide project was one of ten grant applications received from various entities in Montana in 2016 and fortunately, Stillwater’s project was identified as one which FEMA wanted to further review.  The grant applied for is $1.86 million dollars.

            At this time, FEMA is conducting a final environmental review of the proposed project.  According to Officer Wadsworth, this review is progressing well because the grant application contained a great deal of environmental information.  The only minor set-back has been with the area the County identified as the dump site for the rocks from the project.  The original site was to be at the Moraine Fishing Access, however, FEMA determined the site has tipi rings, and is a protected area.  Once the County was given that information, the County worked with Stillwater Mine to locate an alternative site for the rocks.  The County has now proposed an area near the Mine’s Hertzler Tailings Pond and is awaiting FEMA approval.

            The County stands ready to begin the project, however, the County cannot begin actual rock-moving work until the PDM grant has been officially awarded.  Crews were slated to begin rock removal this week, however, if crews were to begin now, the grant award of $1.86 million could potentially face denial.  The projected costs of the rock project is at $2.48 million so the grant award is a crucial component.

            The County Commissioners and Mark Schreiner expressed concerns about this delay to Officer Wadsworth.  She fully understands that all of you have been waiting for a resolution for a long time and assures the Commissioners, they are working as quickly as possible on their end to get this process finalized.  The County remains hopeful FEMA will provide us an answer within the next few weeks so work can begin.

Frankly, I’m confused. On January 4, the job was awarded and work was to begin in five days, weather permitting. Now there are impediments and the County is “hopeful FEMA will provide us an answer within the next few weeks so work can begin.”

Everyone understands that weather and government grants can slow things down, but the County is wildly inconsistent in its communications on this project.

Update, May 16: The Billings Gazette today published an article on the rockslide, linking to this blog and quoting local residents Jerry Sternad and Shirley Stafford.

Update, June 8: Today’s communication from Stillwater County:

“As was announced in the media several weeks ago, FEMA awarded Stillwater County a grant to help with the cost of the Stillwater River Road rockslide situation.  The rockslide project has an estimated price tag of roughly $2.5 million, and the grant will cover approximately $1.9 million of that amount.”

Update, June 22: Stillwater County has published the work schedule for opening Stillwater River Road. Work is scheduled to begin on Monday, July 24, and is to conclude four weeks later with the opening of the road on Friday, August 18. The existing rock debris will be cleared in the first week. The largest amount of time will be spent removing (scaling) loosened and/or unstable blocks of rock from the cliff and building a containment system to prevent the scaled material from getting into the river. If the work is completed on schedule, the road will be opened 807 days from the original rockslide.

Work schedule submitted by Hi-TECH Rockfall Construction. Click to enlarge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Tell Senator Tester what you think about Trump’s cabinet nominees

jon-testerSenator Jon Tester has launched a portal on his web site to gather opinions from Montanans about President-elect Trump’s appointees.

It is important for you to speak up. Tester will be a minority voice in the Senate, and he needs to understand how Montanans feel about the need to block appointees who represent the interests of Big Oil, who deny climate change, and who seek alliances with our enemies.

Since we focus on energy and climate change on this site, these are the appointees we are most concerned about:

Click here to make your comments.

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

Trump’s EPA pick makes his intentions on climate change clear

President-elect Trump has selected Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry who has been a leader of efforts to block President Obama’s climate change rules.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been picked to head the EPA. Photo: Dylan Hollandsworth for the New York Times

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been picked to head the EPA. Photo: Dylan Hollandsworth for the New York Times

While Trump vacillates in what he says regarding energy and climate change, this move makes his intentions very clear. His administration intends to take apart the rules the Obama administration has put in place to combat climate change, including the Clean Power Plan and US participation in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. According to the New York Times, “It will not be possible for Mr. Trump to unilaterally cancel the rules (in the Clean Power Plan), which were released under the 1970 Clean Air Act. But it would be possible for a legally experienced E.P.A. chief to substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them.”

There is no question where Pruitt stands on these issues.

We have often chronicled on this site that Oklahoma has sided with the oil and gas industry at the expense of local landowners. The state has enacted legislation to take away local control over oil and gas drilling, has been slow to regulate activities that cause earthquakes, and would rather pray for oil companies than regulate them.

But Pruitt has put himself at the forefront of an alliance among state attorneys general, including Montana’s Tim Fox, who are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which are in turn contributing large amounts of money for their political campaigns.

In 2011 Pruitt wrote a letter to the EPA that alleged that federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state. The letter was actually authored by attorneys from Devon Energy, one of the largest natural gas operators in Oklahoma.

In 2013, Tim Fox joined Pruitt and two other state attorneys general in protesting BLM plans to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land. The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) later filed suit against Fox for failure to disclose documents related to his support of the protest.

Fox later joined Pruitt in filing suits over the EPA’s Clean Water Rules, EPA Methane Rules, and the Clean Power Plan.

Despite calling climate change a “Chinese hoax,” and railing against the Paris Agreement and the “war on coal,” on the campaign trail, Trump recently told reporters that he had an “open mind” about climate change. Yesterday he met with Al Gore on the subject, giving a bit of hope to those who care about the issue.

Don’t believe it. Actions speak louder than words.

Update 12/7/2016: Here is Scott Pruitt’s tweet on his nomination:




Posted in Climate change, Politics and History | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Thoughts on environmental activism in a Trump presidency

Yesterday I looked at the potential environmental policy direction of the Trump Administration. Today I offer some additional thoughts about what this might mean for political action.

Republicans own climate change
Conservative Republicans now own climate change, with all its consequences.

 Over the years they have sold their party out to climate denialism in a flood of money from the Koch Brothers and the oil and gas industry. It has become an unquestioned aspect of Republican orthodoxy to deny or question whether climate change is occurring, or whether it has human causes, or, if it does, whether we can possibly consider any policy that would have an impact on jobs in the fossil fuel energy sector.

The Obama Administration was late to the game on climate change, but they have made significant positive actions to take global leadership for action to reduce the impacts of warming.

The Republicans now have the power to wipe out all of that if they choose to. They can gut the EPA, take us out of the Paris Climate Agreement, open public lands to fossil fuel development and transport, scrap the Clean Power Plan, and open the doors to the frackers to exploit the land and foul water and air in the name of economic growth.

Yes, it is a bleak picture.

It is scant comfort that what they have taken possession of is a ticking time bomb that will eventually be their undoing. Their aggressive neglect will not only accelerate the process of warming, but the lack of US leadership will empower other nations to be neglectful as well. No matter what Republicans cynically believe, the climate is warming, arctic ice is disappearing, the ocean is rising, drought and extreme weather are intensifying. In the not-too-distant future, it will be clear to all that they have ruined the only planet we have.

Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Attitudes are changing
But there is potential positive news here.

The Republican Party is out of step with the American people on this issue. According to a recent study by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, 70% of Americans now believe that global warming is occurring and public opinion is changing fairly rapidly toward acceptance. What’s more, even though there is uncertainty about whether global warming is human-caused, Americans interest in climate action outpaces their agreement that climate change exists.

Conservative Republican attitudes are changing more rapidly than the general public.

  • The share of conservative Republicans who say global warming is happening has risen from 28 to 47 percent over the last two years.
  • As a whole, 56 percent of Republicans say global warming is happening, up from 40 percent two years ago

What’s more, even though there is uncertainty about whether global warming is human-caused, interest in climate action outpaces agreement that climate change exists.

  • 84 percent of registered voters support more funding for renewable energy research (91 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans).
  • 81 percent support tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (91 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans).
  • 75 percent support regulating carbon dioxide emissions (88 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans).
  • A large majority (70 percent) of registered voters support setting strict carbon emission limits on existing coal power plants. But only 37 percent of conservative Republicans support such action (as opposed to 67 percent of liberal/moderate Republicans and 67 percent of Independents).

Changes in attitude present opportunities for unusual political alliances. 3 in 10 registered voters say they are ready to join a campaign to convince their elected representatives to take action to combat climate change. More education is badly needed to separate public attitudes from political orthodoxy. More experience with extreme events will continue to change attitudes.

Here is a one-hour presentation of the findings of this study.

Other developments moving us forward
What’s more, other developments can move us forward in taking climate action. Vox lists some of these:

  • States like California and New York are still pursuing their own ambitious climate policies, and it’s possible those efforts could be so successful that other states decide to follow suit.
  • Likewise, wind power, solar power, and electric cars will keep getting cheaper — it’s possible they’ll acquire a self-sustaining momentum, even without support from the US government. Or maybe some other new low-carbon technologies will emerge to shake up climate politics. (Small modular reactors, anyone?)
  • Climate activists will continue to push for action at local levels — much as they did during the George W. Bush years, when the Sierra Club began blocking a major planned expansion of coal power. It’s possible that opposition to Trump will galvanize a new generation of climate activists who find creative ways to address global warming.
  • Individuals and local communities are taking action. Recent protests regarding the Dakota Pipeline have galvanized support, and, in California, Monterey County became the first local government with a significant oil industry to ban fracking when voters took action on Tuesday.
  • Other countries still have their own reasons for tackling climate change, even China and India (which, note, is choking on deadly levels of air pollution in Delhi right now). It’s possible that Trump’s recalcitrance on climate change could motivate the rest of the world to redouble their efforts at curtailing emissions without us.
  • It’s even possible that Trump and the GOP could have a change of heart and decide that global warming is a real issue that needs to be taken seriously. It’s possible that Republicans could balk at repealing all these pollution regulations, realizing that they’re actually quite popular. Stranger things have happened.

Last, four years is not the end of time. It is critical to step up action at the local level. It is not a time to sit back and let things happen. Step up, get active, and fight for your planet.

Shutterstock images

Shutterstock images

Posted in Climate change, Politics and History | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Environmental implications of a Donald Trump presidency

President Elect Donald J Trump

President Elect Donald J Trump

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.

Climate change and air quality

  • Cancel United States participation in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Our participation in the plan was the linchpin for getting 195 countries to agree to voluntary emissions reductions, and our withdrawal will like undermine the entire agreement.
  • Stop the Clean Power Plan, which will require power plants in each state to achieve significant reductions in emissions.
  • Reverse the Supreme Court’s “endangerment” finding that says CO2 can be regulated. In 2009, the EPA determined, based upon a careful review of the scientific record, that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
  • Undo other regulations that he concludes harm jobs in the fossil fuel industries
  • Favor policies that promote coal, oil and natural gas for power generation


  • Undo regulations on oil and gas fracking and power plant emissions
  • Encourage development of fossil energy generally
  • Possibly reverse policies that support renewable energy
  • Revive Keystone XL pipeline; ease the way for other fossil fuel transmission lines
  • In the past has said he doesn’t want energy development done in a way that damages public lands

Public Lands

  • Encourage development of coal, oil and natural gas resources on public lands.
  • Lift the moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands
  • Make it easier to site pipelines and transmission lines on public lands
  • Weaken or eliminate rules that govern oil and gas development on public lands
  • Suggested more corporate sponsorships of national parks, but not necessarily in a way that makes them overtly commercial
  • Give states more input on what happens on federal public lands
  • Create more access to resource extraction on BLM lands
  • Side with sportsmen on issues of hunting and management of public lands
  • In the past has opposed the idea of state or private takeover of public lands
  • May invest in invigorating public lands for all forms of recreation


  • Undo the “Waters of the US” rule that clarifies the EPA’s jurisdiction over waters regulated under the Clean Water Act.


  • Eliminate or substantially weaken the EPA
  • Make all new regulations go through a ‘jobs’ test
  • Eliminate existing regulations that he concludes cut jobs

What it means for us
We are at a crossroads for environmental and energy policy. Either we move quickly to reduce our carbon footprint in an attempt to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, or we backslide and leave a catastrophic mess for future generations. Failure to move forward for four or eight years will be ruinous if we hope to keep temperature increases to the level specified in the Paris agreement.

At a local level, we should continue to fight for regulation of oil and gas activity to protect our property, our water, and our communities. We should support the protests of those who are fighting to block unnecessary and illegal pipelines. We should take political action to fight for legislation at the state and federal levels. We should support candidates who will take responsible environmental actions. And we should make our voices heard at every possible moment to preserve our planet.

Yesterday’s election was a shock, but it is not the end of the world (at least I hope not). We all know that political progress is not continuous. It is at moments like this that we need to redouble our efforts.

Posted in Climate change, Community Organization, Politics and History | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

10 questions for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on energy and climate change

We have now been through four debates in this election cycle — three for president and one for vice president — and there has not been a single question posed to any candidate on energy and climate change.

At Preserve the Beartooth Front, we believe that this is the key issue facing the United States over the next 20-30 years. It is central not only to energy policy, but to economic development, national security, immigration, infrastructure, and much more.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Rick T. Wilking/Pool via AP)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Rick T. Wilking/Pool via AP)

It is deeply concerning that these issues have not taken center stage in the campaign. Failure to debate them publicly lessens our chances of coming to consensus about a course of action that will enable the US to become an effective leader in reducing the impacts of climate change, and to transform our economy to take advantage of the dramatic shifts in energy technology that will occur in the coming decades.

We have tracked the candidates’ positions on energy and climate change for over a year, and have many questions we would pose to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump if we had the chance. Here are ten. Please feel free to contribute your own in comments.

  1. What is the role of science in developing energy and climate policy? How will you reconcile the gap between climate science and the public’s perception (and Congress’) of that science?
  2. What specific policies, e.g. carbon tax, incentives for adoption of efficient energy technology, stimulus, would you propose to accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies?
  3. What is the role of fracking in the transition of US energy policy to clean energy?
  4. What is an achievable timeline for the transition of US energy utilization from fossil fuels to clean energy? How does this apply specifically to coal, natural gas, and oil?
  5. How will you ensure US compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015? Is compliance with this agreement sufficient to avert the negative impacts of climate change?
  6. Science has shown that fracking has disproportionately negative environmental and community health impacts on the communities in which it takes place. What rights should local communities have to regulate fracking?
  7. For Hillary Clinton: You have proposed aggressive targets for adoption of solar, wind and other technologies, yet have not made this an issue in the campaign and have proposed no plan for action on this in your first year in office. Is this a serious goal, and, if so, how do you plan to achieve it?
  8. For Donald Trump: You have previously stated that climate change was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Please state whether you believe that
    1. Global temperature rise is occurring?
    2. If it is occurring, to what extent is it manmade?
    3. If it is manmade, what is the role of government in developing policies to address it?
  9. Describe your vision for energy use in the US in 2030. How will transportation, home energy use, and infrastructure be different from today?
  10. Your grandchildren will likely be alive in the year 2100. Science tells us that if we do not act quickly, climate change will cause major impacts in their lifetimes in sea level rise, drought, food and water availability, and more. Have you given any thought to what you will tell them about your role in keeping that from happening?
Posted in Clean energy, Climate change | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The state of Oklahoma would rather pray for oilfields than regulate them

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

Sometimes items show up in my mailbox that I have a hard time believing. But the oil and gas industry often defies belief, and today’s item gave me pause.

Seems Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has issued an executive proclamation designating October 13 as Oilfield Prayer Day. The proclamation goes like this:

Whereas, Oklahoma is blessed with an abundance of oil and natural gas, allowing the state to be a prosperous producer of these valuable resources; and

Whereas Christians acknowledge such natural resources are created by God; and

Whereas the oil and gas industry continues to produce countless opportunities for wealth generation for Oklahoma families; and

Whereas Oklahoma recognizes the incredible economic, community and faith-based impacts demonstrated across the state by oil and natural gas companies; and

Whereas Christians are invited to thank God for the blessing created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection; now, therefore, I, Mary Fallin, Governor, do hereby proclaim October 13, 2016, as “Oilfield Prayer Day” in the state of Oklahoma.

I sure hope that the good Lord doesn’t send down one of his earthquakes on Thursday. It might shake the locals into realizing that an understanding of science, proper regulation, and a tax policy that makes oil billionaires pay for the damage they are doing to the state might do as much good as all those prayers.

It’s important to remain vigilant about the extent to which the oil and gas industry extends its tentacles into our lives to prevent responsible management of their activities.

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As a killer hurricane descends on Florida, a reminder that it is time to act on global warming in Montana

As I write this, Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Florida’s eastern coast. It is a killer Category 4 storm, with 140 mph winds. It has already caused extreme devastation in Haiti, leaving over 250 people dead and many more homeless. According to the National Weather Service on Thursday afternoon, “Extremely dangerous, life-threatening weather conditions are forecast in the next 24 hours. Airborne debris lofted by extreme winds will be capable of breaching structures, unprotected windows and vehicles.”

The Governor of Florida has told 1.5 million people to leave their homes, saying, “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Southeastern Florida in an age of global warming
According to a 2015 report by the Miami Herald, southeast Florida is the region in the world at greatest risk from rising ocean levels. If sea levels rise by six feet by 2100, which many scientists expect because of the accelerating rate of polar ice melt, 6 million people in Florida will live in flooded areas. The Herald says that, according to the Risky Business Project led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, “the value of Florida property at risk from climate change (is) first in the nation. By 2030, they estimated $69 billion at risk, with sea rise alone expected to threaten $15 billion in property.

Tourists navigate the flooded streets of Miami during a king tide in 2015. Climatologists say these king tides will be normal high tides soon. Photo Emily Michot, Miami Herald

Tourists navigate the flooded streets of Miami during a king tide in 2015. Climatologists say these king tides will be normal high tides soon. Photo: Emily Michot, Miami Herald

Tropical storms are the norm in Florida, but as the ocean warms, we can expect more and more devastating hurricanes like Matthew. Recent research has shown that we are experiencing more storms with higher wind speeds, and these storms will be more destructive, last longer and make landfall more frequently than in the past.

Global warming and Montana
There are obviously no tropical storms in Montana, but we have seen significant changes caused by global warming in the state. According to the most recent US Climate Assessment, published by an interagency group, in Montana and the Great Plains:

  • Rising temperatures are leading to increased demand for water and energy. This will constrain development, stress natural resources, and increase competition for water among communities, agriculture, energy production, and ecological needs.
  • Changes to crop growth cycles due to warming winters and alterations in the timing and magnitude of rainfall events have already been observed; as these trends continue, they will require new agriculture and livestock management practices.
  • Landscape fragmentation is increasing. A highly fragmented landscape will hinder adaptation of species when climate change alters habitat composition and timing of plant development cycles.
  • Communities that are already the most vulnerable to weather and climate extremes will be stressed even further by more frequent extreme events occurring within an already highly variable climate system.
  • The magnitude of expected changes will exceed those experienced in the last century. Existing adaptation and planning efforts are inadequate to respond to these projected impacts.

Now is the time to act
We are all connected. Florida’s global warming problem is Montana’s problem. While Montana will not experience the magnitude of impacts of global warming that Florida will, swift action is required to reduce carbon emissions. This means a rapid transition from traditional fossil fuels to clean energy, supported by government incentives, a carbon tax, and other measures.

As Florida is devastated by a storm fueled by warmer oceans, we can no longer afford ourselves the luxury of complaining about “a war on coal” or allow our government agencies to permit oil and gas companies to operate with minimal regulation.

We can respond quickly if we act together to move toward a carbon-free future rather than clinging to our devastating energy past.

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