Residents plan protest over Beartooth fracking plan this week

2013-12-09T00:15:00Z 2014-04-03T11:54:10Z Residents plan protest over Beartooth fracking plan this weekBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Residents concerned with plans by a Denver energy company to drill about 50 oil and natural gas wells near the Beartooth Mountains — and more wells in the Bighorn Basin — are planning a rally in Billings on Wednesday.

Red Lodge resident Deb Muth, who chairs the Carbon County Resource Council, said the rally is set for 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Yellowstone County Courthouse. She expects people from Carbon, Stillwater and Yellowstone counties to attend.

“We just want to be a part of this process and it’s difficult, so a rally is our first chance,” Muth said.

The group also plans to attend the monthly business meeting of the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation Wednesday, 2 p.m., at 2535 St. John’s Ave. The agenda allows for public comment on Energy Corporation of America’s application for a permit to drill a horizontal fracking well three miles east of Belfry.

Fracking is a process where a million gallons or more of water mixed with chemicals is blasted at extreme pressure down into the shale to break up the rock and release the oil and gas trapped inside.

“No one asked us if we were prepared to have oil and gas development come into our agricultural community,” she said. “We found out almost accidentally.”

Opponents of the drilling will also attend a formal hearing they requested on the Belfry well permit, which begins at 8 a.m. on Thursday.

During that meeting, the seven members of the oil and gas board will hear testimony and then vote on about 60 issues, including oil and gas permits and well spacing. ECA’s Belfry permit is on the agenda.

Under state law, permit applications must be advertised at the state Capitol in Helena and in the county where the well would be located. The public then has 10 days to request a hearing.

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