- New study shows much higher number of oil well spills than previously reported
- What a bipartisan solution to climate change might look like
- Learning opportunity: Earthworks activist training, Thursday, 2/9 at 6pm
- 24 US Senators are trying to preserve the BLM methane rule. Why isn’t Jon Tester one of them?
- Action Alert: Prevent the Montana Senate from taking landowner rights
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Tag Archives: Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation
“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. Continue reading
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.
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 often show 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.
To read more about the lawsuit, click the link. Continue reading
Last week the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation turned down a request from several conservation organizations and other residents to require increased disclosure of fracking chemicals.
This is typical for the BOGC. Earlier this year they declined to establish minimum setbacks of wellheads from occupied buildings, leaving Montana as one of the few oil and gas producing states with no required buffer zones.
Montana remains one of the most poorly regulated oil and gas producing states, largely because the BOGC is designed to conserve oil and gas interests, not the rights of the state’s residents. The fight to reform the BOGC is central to changing the balance of power in the fight to protect the state’s residents from unsafe drilling in this poorly regulated industry.
Today the Billings Gazette responded to the latest BOGC failure with a scathing editorial.
To read it, click the link. Continue reading
Last week a coalition of environmental organizations, landowners and public health advocates petitioned the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) to provide broader public disclosure of information about the chemicals used in fracking.
The proposals are common sense reforms that would protect landowners from potential harm. As Katherine O’Brien, the Earthjustice attorney who drafted the petition on behalf of the coalition put it, “Montanans have the right to know what is being pumped into the ground around their homes, farms, and ranches.”
While the Montana press has reacted favorably to the proposed changes, the oil and gas industry opposes the changes, citing their oft-repeated and always incorrect mantra, “Fracking is safe.”
The Board of Oil and Gas needs to take this opportunity to protect Montana’s residents.
To read more, click the link. Continue reading
A new study says drilling is happening too close to homes; the Montana Board of Oil and Gas doesn’t care
A new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that setbacks — the minimum allowable distance between a well and occupied residences, schools, or hospitals — are too close to peoples’ homes. According to the study, the current setbacks in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Texas leave residents vulnerable to explosions from well blowouts and to air pollution generated at wells “above health-based risk levels.”
Pennsylvania’s minimum setback is 500 feet from any occupied building. Texas’ is 200 feet; Colorado’s is 500 to 1,000 feet.
Montana is one of the few oil and gas states without any setback rules. Last summer the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, at the urging of Northern Plains Resource Council and others, took up the issue of rulemaking for setbacks. After hearing from many residents regarding the need for minimum setbacks, the BOGC decided not to take up rulemaking, but to form a subcommittee to consider the issue.
The subcommittee has now done its work, You won’t believe what they came up with. Click to find out. 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
According to an article in the Missoulian, gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte was in Great Falls last Thursday, where he told supporters that, as Governor, he will “focus more on customer service than enforcement, in part, by placing ‘someone from industry’ or business at the helm of state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).”
The issue here is an important one. The Montana Constitution guarantees each citizen the right to a “clean and healthful environment”. This is a fundamental right that has existed for over 40 years.
With regard to oil and gas issues, the DEQ stands alone as the state agency charged with protecting that right. According to the DEQ’s web site, the agency’s “ultimate goal is to protect public health and to maintain Montana’s high quality of life for current and future generations.”
Gianforte’s campaign is just getting started, and his position on the DEQ may change. But Montanans should be wary of electing a Governor who is going to undercut citizen rights. And local citizens along the Beartooth Front should increase their urgency in working with county government to create local regulations that build necessary protections at the local level. 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
At its meeting on Wednesday, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) decided not to take up rulemaking for setbacks. Instead, they created a review panel to consider the issue. This is another example of a Montana state agency running roughshod over the rights of surface owners, whose only recourse is local regulation.
The record speaks for itself. The state of Montana has no interest in setting up reasonable protections for landowners from oil and gas drilling. It is up to local landowners to do it themselves, using provisions for citizen initiated zoning established in Montana law. Continue reading