Tag Archives: citizen initiated zoning

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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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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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

Posted in Legal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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American acceptance of climate change growing rapidly, opening opportunities for action

American acceptance of the problem of climate change and the need for action is growing rapidly. A New National Survey on Energy and the Environment (NSEE) from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan shows acceptance of mainstream science near an all time high. For the first time since 2008, at least 7 out of 10 Americans indicate that they believe there is solid evidence of global warming over the past four decades.

For a discussion of the findings and their implications, go to the post. Continue reading

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Montana Supreme Court agrees to hear Silvertip zoning case

We’ve often said that the road to progress on oil and gas issues is long, so it’s nice to get small victories along the way.

The Montana Supreme Court this month denied a motion to dismiss the Silvertip zoning case by the Carbon County Commission. The decision allows the case to continue and be heard by the Supreme Court in early 2016.

For more information and access to documents related to the case, click the link. Continue reading

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The regulation of Arctic Ocean drilling, with implications for the Beartooth Front

As President Obama heads off to Alaska this week, he has focused on climate change. Alaska is suffering greater effects of global warming than any other state in the United States.

His presence there highlights recent conflicts between the Administration and environmentalists over drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Shell was awarded a permit this month to drill two exploratory wells there. The potential benefits are great because the area contains 20% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, but the dangers of a spill in such a remote and inaccessible area are frightening.

Obama justified the decision in his weekly address by saying that, despite our progress in moving to renewable energy, we need to continue to drill for fossil fuels. Given that, it is better we find domestic sources than foreign ones, and the regulation put on Arctic drilling makes the possibility of a spill very small.

In a sense, we face similar choices along the Beartooth Front, where drilling is allowed, but the environmental risk is great. 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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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

BREAKING. Decision in Silvertip Zone case (video)

In a narrow ruling that demonstrates how government at all levels conspires to deprive small landowners of their rights, Judge Blair Jones ruled last week that: The Silvertip Zone petition did not meet Carbon County standards that had been established … Continue reading

Posted in Community Organization, Politics and History | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments