DNRC stops water sale for oil drilling project; Belfry gravel pit owner lacked water right

2014-05-23T17:30:00Z 2014-05-24T21:34:09Z DNRC stops water sale for oil drilling project; Belfry gravel pit owner lacked water rightBy TOM LUTEY tlutey@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A landowner near Belfry has been told to stop selling water to an oil company drilling in the area.

Kim Overcast of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said the water being drawn from a Belfry gravel pit was bound for a well being drilled by Energy Corp. of America. Neighbors alerted DNRC after noticing water trucks repeatedly filling up at the gravel pit.

The gravel pit’s owner didn’t have the required right to the water, but also didn’t realize he needed one, Overcast said. The landowner stopped selling the water within 30 minutes of being contacted by DNRC.

DNRC has not identified the property owner, or issued penalties for the water sale. Typically, enforcement stops once the water misuse ends, Overcast said.

ECA didn’t know the water it paid for had been acquired without a water right, said Jennifer Vieweg, company spokeswoman.

“Energy Corp. of America has been working with a local vendor to purchase water for our operations.

“It is our understanding that this particular vendor has had an agreement directly with a surface owner in the area who has a gravel pit on his property that has filled with water,” Vieweg said. “Under their agreement, the vendor would draw water from this gravel pit, which he then transported and ultimately sold to ECA.

“We have been informed that the surface owner has not obtained the appropriate permit to sell the water to the vendor. We have therefore directed the vendor to no longer pull water from the pit and we will be utilizing other options to access water”

The water was not being used for hydraulic fracturing, which isn’t taking place at an ECA well being drilled in the area.

Overcast said she received 35 emails from people concerned the water was being drawn without a water right.

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