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Cattle feed as aspen trees color the Beartooth Front near Luther. October 10, 2014

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

Homeowners demanding distance from oil drilling declared victory in Montana in Carbon County, where wells can no longer be closer to homes than 750 feet.

The Carbon County Commission added the distance to its development regulations. Homeowners said the space was needed to protect the water of homeowners living with oil and gas development.

The setbacks were first sought more than two years ago when Energy Corp. of America began drilling along the front range of the Beartooth Mountains. ECA, with offices in Colorado and West Virginia, had promised to “bring the Bakken to the Beartooths,” which alarmed homeowners into action.

ECA drilled a test well near Belfry, but didn’t do much more.

“Carbon County has had oil and gas development for some time, since early 1900. Now, they’re using new drilling methods with hydraulic fracturing,” said Susann Beug, of the Carbon County Resource Council. “An exploratory well by Belfry got people concerned.”

Beug said the Carbon County Planning Board spent a lot of time getting the setback right. County Planner Monica Plecker said a homeowner who doesn’t mind being closer to an oil and gas well has the right to waive the setback requirement.

There are no wells currently being drilled in Montana, according to state records. Beug expects drilling to pick up in Carbon County whenever oil prices are high enough to support it.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.