It all comes down to water.
That’s the point of a new report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils that looks at oil and gas drilling impacts and regulations.
Birney rancher Terry Punt says there’s an obvious need for more oversight because accidents happen frequently – although the public may not know about them.
The report shows that since 2009, Montana has experienced 295 oil well blowouts and spills, with 83 occurring in 2012 alone.
“Montana keeps their spill records only on paper in the central office,” Punt says. “The lack of transparency is a major factor that enables limited enforcement and accountability.”
The report recommends setting standards for well-site construction, waste-stream testing and disposal, along with comprehensive monitoring and testing of pipelines.
Birney says folks don’t realize that national standards and rules don’t always cover the local landscape.
“This is why our state requires stricter standards, increased transparency, less self-monitoring, proper enforcement and an informed public,” he explains.
Birney adds that exploration and leasing have ramped up recently in Montana, and even coal bed methane production has seen an increase in activity.