We’ve (almost) done the impossible

…now help us cross the finish line on radioactive oil waste!

Last year, the state of Montana proposed weaker rules for radioactive oil waste than our neighbors in North Dakota, where a bulk of Montana’s oil waste comes from. That included quadrupling the level of radioactivity allowed in our state from 50 to 200 picocuries per gram.

Northern Plains members wasted no time in responding. Our folks got organized – collecting more than 900 public comments on the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s proposal. Members like you told the state with resounding clarity: “We are not North Dakota’s dumping ground!”

And it’s working. The DEQ is now proposing to make several last-minute changes, including lowering the radioactivity limit to match North Dakota’s. This is a dramatic and unusual action for such a late-stage rulemaking – and the credit belongs to Northern Plains members across the state.

But this lower limit (and the other good changes that came with it) isn’t final yet.

Can you help us flood the DEQ with supportive comments to make sure these changes stick?

Use the form below to craft your own comment, and we’ll submit it for you. Your comments are needed by midnight Sunday, March 1 so that we can send them to DEQ before the deadline ends the following day.

  • For greater impact, please feel free to customize this letter.

Learn more about radioactive oil waste

Eastern Montanan is not North Dakota’s dumping ground. We need radioactive oil waste rules in Montana that are as strong as North Dakota’s.

Ever heard of radioactive oil waste?

Montana’s been a disposal destination for radioactive oil waste since 2013, when a landfill to take this type of waste was permitted near Glendive. Waste from North Dakota’s oilfield that contains radionuclides and other harmful contaminants started getting trucked across the border in large volumes.

Northern Plains members in the area, many of them farmers and ranchers living near the landfill, started pushing for protections. It turned out that radioactive oil waste exists in a strange regulatory vacuum – all waste from oil and gas exploration and production are exempt from federal regulation. Meanwhile, our state’s existing solid waste rules are more appropriate for municipal waste.

Last year, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued what was meant to be its final draft of radioactive oil waste rules. But the draft was the department’s worst yet.

The draft included a proposal to quadruple Montana’s radioactivity limit from 50 to 200 picocuries per gram. With our bordering neighbor state North Dakota’s limit remaining at 50, this change would position Montana a radioactive dumping ground for generations to come.

But Northern Plains members said “NO.” You drove long distances from Glendive and Sidney to testify at hearings. In Helena, you knocked on neighbors’ doors to put up yard signs around the Capitol. In Plentywood, you spread the word like wildfire. In Missoula, you spoke to reporters and got local decision-makers on board.

In the end, you – collectively – got more than 900 Montanans to speak as one and submit comments on the DEQ’s proposal. You told the state with resounding clarity: “We are not North Dakota’s dumping ground!”

Thanks for making your voices heard. Now, help us bring this rulemaking home – and forever ensure Montana is not North Dakota’s dumping ground.

Have questions about any of the above? Need help submitting a comment? Contact Caitlin at caitlin@northernplains.org or (406) 248-1154