Missoula Current

The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation voted 4-3 this week to adopt a rule requiring oil and gas operators to notify landowners within one-quarter mile of a proposed oil or gas well, a victory for a conservation and agricultural group that had been pushing for the measure for more than a year.

Sue Beug, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council in Red Lodge, said the rule requires drillers to notify neighboring landowners before wells are permitted, giving them a chance to comment on projects while they're still in the planning phase.

“Transparency is a Montana value, and today's vote finally means that neighbors in the oil and gas fields will have some information when drilling is coming near their homes,” said Beug.

Since the beginning of 2015, members of Northern Plains – a Billings-based conservation and family agriculture organization – have joined with other landowners across the state in attending Board of Oil and Gas Conservation meetings to urge its members to protect surface owners.

Prior to this week's decision, Beug said, landowners adjacent to an oil and gas lease received no notice of proposed wells. Nor did they have a chance to address the oil and gas board with concerns.

Wyoming and North Dakota both require notification of adjacent landowners. `

“It has been a long process, starting with the 2015 Legislature,” said Beug. “We were able to increase transparency for neighbors of oil and gas drilling.”