- 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
- Stillwater County News: “Workable framework” adopted for potential southern county zone
Click to see the Preserve the Beartooth Front video
Tag Archives: citizen initiated zoning
ACTION ALERT: Please contact the Stillwater County Commissioners to stop them from taking landowner rights
Not content just to block Beartooth Front landowners from setting regulations that would protect their own properties, the Stillwater County Commissioners have devised a policy that will forever keep any local landowners from using their rights under Montana state law. The policy will be voted on after a public hearing in Columbs at 9:30am on March 6.
The Commissioners tried to sneak this policy past the public on January 24, but were stopped when local landowners forced them to follow their own policy on public notice.
This is not a policy. It is just a way to keep landowners from exercising their rights under the law.
The Commissioners have asked for public comment. This is where you come in. Please click the link and let them know how feel. Continue reading
Beartooth Front zone update: Stillwater Commissioners turn their backs on locals who pay their salaries; support unknown outsiders
A portion of this post will appear in the Opinion section of the Stillwater County News on Thursday, February 1.
By rejecting a petition of over 550 landowners to establish the Beartooth Front Zoning District, the Stillwater Commissioners this week, after three years of inaction, delays, and excuses, have decided to turn their backs on the people who pay their salaries to stand up for unknown outside interests.
To do this they had to make up new law that has never been used in a single one of the 111 existing citizen initiated zones that have been established in Montana over the last 65 years.
It’s hard to imagine why they would want to spend precious County resources to defend this fantasy law in court against local landowners who have spent three years coming up with a plan that has received the overwhelming support of their neighbors. But that’s what they’re going to have to do unless they come to their senses pretty quickly.
To find out more, and to learn what you can do to help, click the link. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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