Seven landowners are going to court to challenge the Carbon County Commission’s rejection of their petition for land-use regulations to protect their properties from oil and gas drilling.
Earthjustice, an environmental nonprofit law firm representing the landowners, filed a suit in state district court in Carbon County on Friday. Energy Corporation of America is named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the commissioners.
Although Energy Corporation of America announced in December that results from an experimental well indicated further development wouldn’t be worthwhile, Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said the lawsuit still makes sense to put protections in place if the oil market rebounds and makes the drill sites more profitable.
The seven landowners want a nearly 3,000-acre area north of Belfry zoned to protect their property, air and water quality. The county rejected the petition in January following protests from other surrounding landowners.
In 2013, Energy Corporation of America’s CEO John Mork announced plans to hydraulically fracture 50 wells along the Beartooth Front — an area that includes Carbon and Stillwater counties. In December he said, “... We do not have plans to further develop this well, or pursue additional wells in the area at this time.”
Harbine said a ruling in the landowners favor could set a precedent for similar cases in the state in the future.