- Beartooth landowners victorious in lawsuit against Stillwater County
- PLEASE NOTE: Change in Zoom access code for today’s hearing
- Action alert: Watch court hearing on Zoom, Thursday, 2:00 pm
- Action alert: Stillwater County Planning Board meeting, Wed, 9/4, 7pm
- Must attend! Stillwater County Planning Board: Wednesday, August 7, 7pm
Click to see the Preserve the Beartooth Front video
Tag Archives: citizen initiated zoning
In a long-awaited decision, District Judge Matthew Wald ruled yesterday in favor of Beartooth Front landowners in their suit against Stillwater County. The landowners are seeking to establish a citizen-initiated zone that would place reasonable regulation on future oil and gas drilling along the Beartooth Front in southern Stillwater County.
Judge Wald granted the landowners’ request for summary judgment against the County, and denied the County’s motion. In doing so, he ruled unambiguously that the County was not justified in requiring the landowners to obtain signatures from minerals owners in addition to surface landowners. His ruling also stated that the County had set up an unworkable method of evaluating the landowners’ petitions that was in violation of the County’s own rules.
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
Stillwater County landowner lawsuit update: County runs out the clock on Judge Jones; hearing set for January 16
In the three months since my last update on the Beartooth Front landowners’ lawsuit against the Stillwater County Commissioners, the Commissioners have carefully followed a familiar path — delay, delay, delay. The result is that a new judge will have to hear the case, likely resulting in more delays down the road.
The landowners filed the suit last February after the Commissioners denied a petition to set up a citizen-initated zone to regulate oil and gas drilling in southern Stillwater County. The Commissioners ruled that the petition did not qualify, even though it met the legal requirement of the signatures of 60% of the landowners in the proposed zone. According to the Commissioners, the petitioners needed the signatures of 60% of the minerals owners in the proposed zone in addition to the landowners.
Delays are nothing new in this case. The landowners originally submitted their petition in November, 2015, and the County has taken every opportunity to avoid complying with the law and granting the petition, which would put reasonable regulations on drilling, not ban it.
Beartooth Front landowners last week filed the critical brief in their lawsuit against the Stillwater County Commissioners. It outlines their argument for why landowners alone, without the approval of minerals owners, should be able to establish a citizen-initiated zoning district. The argument lies at the heart of a central tension in Montana law: the self-determination of landowners to decide what happens on their own property vs. the importance of mineral extraction to the state economy.
Assuming there are no extensions, the County will have 21 days to respond, and then the landowners will have 14 days to reply. That will put the end of briefings in early October. Our attorney has asked for a hearing on the motion, and we are hopeful that Judge Jones will conduct the hearing and issue a ruling on our motion before the end of the year.
To read more, click the link.
This op ed appeared in the Stillwater County News on August 23, 2018.
“The Commissioners aren’t doing their jobs. Instead of trying to make new law on behalf of the oil and gas industry, what they should be doing is working with Stillwater landowners to protect the Beartooth Front.” Continue reading
Action Alert: Please attend hearing on Stillwater County landowner lawsuit, Thursday, July 26, 1:30pm
The next step in the Beartooth Front Coaltion lawsuit against the Stillwater County Commissioners is a hearing in front of Judge Blair Jones. The hearing will be held at the Stillwater County Courthouse in Columbus on Thursday, July 26 at 1:30 pm.
This step is the first of several hearings in this case. If the landowners are successful in their suit, the ultimate outcome will be for the Commissioners to hold a hearing to consider the petition. It is critical for them to see evidence at every step of the way that landowners stand firm in their demand that their rights be protected.
Please come if you can.
To read more about the suit and the hearing, click the link. Continue reading
Stillwater County’s out of state law firm wasted no time in responding to the Beartooth Front Coalition’s lawsuit against Stillwater County by filing a motion to dismiss the suit. The petitioners have responded, and the case is in motion. This post summarizes the arguments put forward in the case so far, with links to the court documents.
Click the link to find out the details. Continue reading
The Stillwater County Commissioners have retained a high-priced out-of-state law firm to defend a lawsuit filed against them by Beartooth Front landowners. Over 60% of the landowners in the area have petitioned the County to set up a citizen-initiated zone to regulate oil and gas drilling, in accordance with Montana law.
Why would they hire a firm from out of state? And why would they hire a firm with rates much higher than would be charged by an expert Montana firm? It’s impossible to tell for sure. There has been no public notice of any contractual relationship with an outside firm. A look at recent Commissioner agendas and meeting minutes makes no mention of a contract.
But a look at the facts shows that the Commissioners have gone out of their way not only to deprive local landowners of their rights, but to establish a precedent that will end citizen-initiated zoning in Montana. In doing so they will pave the way for the oil and gas industry to operate without regard for local communities. This agenda dovetails perfectly with the national agenda of the oil and gas industry.
To find out more about this law firm, click the link. Continue reading
Writing letters makes a difference.
We saw it last week when the BLM backed off on a decision to sell oil leases on the Beartooth Front because of public opposition.
The Stillwater County Commissioners have decided to rewrite Montana state law to keep landowners from establishing reasonable protections from drilling. They need to hear that you think that’s a bad idea.
Tuesday, March 13 is the last day they will accept email comments.
Please click the link to find out what to do. It will only take a few minutes. Continue reading
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