Saturday, February 24, 2024

Finding Balance for Landowner Rights and Oil Development



BILLINGS, Mont. — Today, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation held a special session to hear public comments on oil and gas setbacks.

The Board is weighing the merits of beginning rulemaking on setback requirements for Montana.

At the meeting in Billings, Montana landowners debated the need for setback requirements with oil and gas industry representatives. Landowners argue setbacks establish an equitable balance between landowner rights oil and gas development, ensuring development is done right.

Pat Wilson, a rancher from Bainville and a member of Northern Plains Resource Council, was among about a half dozen Northern Plains members who testified. Wilson also delivered written comments from 162 citizens across the state.

Wilson listed problems at his ranch — which has 18 producing wells the closest being 900 feet from a dwelling — such as noise and dust, trash, spills, pipeline leaks, and casing failures, which he said are more common than most people know about.

Wilson said the release of dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOC) at the well head are his main reasons for setbacks. “VOC’s outgassing at the well head have been proven to be hazardous to human health. And there are ample studies to that effect. Health risks surely warrant at least a 1,300-foot setback.”

“Many citizens if not most  the citizens in the Bakken have little or no say concerning  well siting or for that matter any oil and gas development,” said Wilson. “And that’s a tragedy in a state that prides itself in individual rights and property rights.”

Setback requirements are common policies in most oil and gas producing states, including Wyoming, North Dakota, and Colorado. Setbacks establish protective “buffer zones,” between oil and gas wells and inhabited structures or other sensitive resources. Buffer zones give landowners important protections and promote public safety and private property values in areas of oil and gas development. Currently, the state of Montana has no setback requirements.


During the regularly scheduled business meeting of the BOGC after the special session the Board members decided to delay making a decision on whether or not to take up setback rulemaking until the August meeting of the Board. 

Source:  Northern Plains Council

Oil well and rotting truck by benklocek, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  benklocek 

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