State board approves Belfry oil well project – KTVQ TV, Feb. 27, 2014

February 27, 2014

Categories: Agriculture, Landowner Rights, News, Northern Plains Resource Council, Oil and gas

By Victoria Fregoso

BILLINGS – On a seven-to-one vote by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, an oil company can move forward with plans to sink an oil well near Belfry.

The vote was made on Thursday morning after testimony from a group of Belfry landowners and representatives with a local resource council.

“They failed their job,” said Deb Muth, chair of the Carbon County Resource Council. “They failed to listen and once again they stood up for industry and not the people.”

The organization has opposed drilling in the region.

Energy Corporation of America obtained a permit to drill near Belfry in December of 2013.

“It was previously approved, which means it complied in all respects to the regulations and laws of the state of Montana for the drilling of a well to this depth in this area,” a company representative said during the hearing. “And really, we don’t believe that there is any basis for revoking our permit or even modifying that permit.”

Thursday’s hearing is a result of a lawsuit that was filed by the Northern Plains and Carbon County Resource Councils against the state board because they were not given the opportunity to comment on the drilling site before the permit was granted.

After hearing testimony at the hearing Thursday, the board again approved the permit without any revisions.

Landowners are concerned drilling will destroy local resources.

“We want them to understand the impact it will have on this area,” said Bonnie Martinell, a Northern Plains member and farmer in Belfry. “We’re an agricultural area and we’re very dependent on our quality and quantity of water.”

The group of landowners is working to figure out what steps can be taken next to prevent further drilling along the Beartooth Front.

“We are going to be on them to make sure this permit is being followed to the T,” Muth said. “And if they go ahead and start hydraulic fracturing, we’re going to be there to find out where they are getting their water and where their waste water is going. So we’re not going away.”

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