Oil and Gas

We work to ensure the long term health of Montana by protecting our air & water, putting agriculture & ranching community interests above oil and gas profits, and empowering communities to guide development.

We have nothing without clean water.
– Dena Hoff, Farmer Threatened by Keystone XL Pipeline

Our History Tells Us…

In the 90s, a new a new form of energy extraction, with its own set of devastating environmental impacts, came onto the scene. For the next several years, Northern Plains organized to save the Tongue River valley from destruction due to coal bed methane development. Watch to learn what “Our History Tells Us” about this early victory and how the legacy to protect our water continues today:

Radioactive Oil Field Waste Disposal

Oil field waste products can contain low concentrations of naturally-occurring radioactive materials. However, oil field waste is exempt from national legislation regulating solid and hazardous waste, leaving the safe disposal of radioactive oil field waste up to individual states.

Northern Plains members waged a successful six-year grassroots campaign to establish radioactive oil waste disposal rules in Montana that have parity with rules in neighboring states where the vast majority of this waste originates. 

The rulemaking process began in 2013, prompted by local residents in Eastern Montana. In the following years, Northern Plains took the lead in organizing Montanans to make their case to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality by way of thousands of comments submitted through three public comment periods, as well as hundreds of testimonials given in four public in-person hearings, and two virtual hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members also conducted meticulous research about this issue, and employed creative messaging tactics to ensure their concerns were heard by decision-makers.

Finally, in June 2020, Montana’s first ever radioactive oil waste disposal rules were finalized. The successful finalization of these rules is a testament to the drive and tenacity of Northern Plains members who continued to fight for their communities despite repeated efforts to derail and diminish the strength of this effort.

Montana currently has only one operating radioactive oil waste facility located near Glendive. We continue to monitor this site to ensure that these rules are being followed and enforced to protect local communities.

Keystone XL Pipeline

For over ten years, Northern Plains has worked to protect Montana’s rural and tribal communities from the Keystone XL pipeline. Our work on this issue stems from our core values to preserve hard-won laws that uphold environmental justice, defend and respect the treaty rights of tribal nations, and to protect our air, land, water, and climate for future generations. Click here to read more about the vision we created to help guide and sustain us during this fight. 

Northern Plains has been a plaintiff in successful lawsuits challenging unlawfully issued KXL permits that failed to uphold bedrock environmental laws including the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). During this time, KXL construction was kept to a bare minimum as we worked with allies in Montana and beyond to defend our communities against the dangers presented by this Canadian tar sands project. 

On January 20, 2021, on his first day in office, President Biden rescinded a key permit for Keystone XL. This came shortly after Northern Plains members drafted an open letter to then President-elect Biden telling him to keep his promise to stop KXL. Hundreds of Montanans signed on in support. Allies in the region and across the nation –  tribal leaders, indigenous groups, and conservationists – made similar demands, building a groundswell of grassroots activism. As a result of sustained people power, our air, land, water, climate, and communities are safe from the threats of Keystone XL at this time.

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Supporting Air Pollution Protections

Since 2013, Northern Plains has been supporting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Environmental Protective Agency’s (EPA) efforts to develop federal rules to limit dangerous methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.

Fighting for Landowner Protections

Our members work at the Montana legislature, with the Board of Oil & Gas Conservation, and at the county level for basic landowner protections that put community interests above oil and gas profits and empower communities to guide development.

In 2016, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation added notification of adjacent building owners as a requirements for companies proposing to drill an oil or gas well in Montana. This new landowner protection only became a reality because Northern Plains members persistently requested more, and earlier, information of oil and gas drilling plans be provided to people living nearby.

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