Montana Senate panel opposes Sexton confirmation

2013-04-18T21:11:00Z 2013-04-25T14:39:06Z Montana Senate panel opposes Sexton confirmationBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA -- On a party-line vote, the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Thursday recommended that the Senate not confirm Mary Sexton of Choteau to the state Board of Oil and Gas Conservation.

Sexton was director of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for eight years under Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, leaving the job in late December 2012. She previously served as a Teton County commissioner.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock appointed her to the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, a part-time, quasi-judicial seven-member board.

The committee’s eight Republicans opposed her confirmation, while the five Democrats supported it.

Sexton’s nomination will proceed to Senate floor for consideration.

“I think my record stands for itself,” Sexton said in a telephone interview. “We had record oil and gas leasing on state lands when I was DNRC director.”

She said the department leased 2.8 million acres of state lands for oil and gas leasing and received $74 million in revenue for them for the state’s school trust during her eight-year tenure.

At the committee meeting on Tuesday, the chairman, Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, said he couldn’t support Sexton’s nomination.

“I think she’s a very fine individual,” he said. “I think she’s got convictions for her beliefs. I do have problems with some of the stipulations that were handed down in her tenure. I wonder if some of that might carry through on her position on the board. “

He said there was an issue in central Montana where a rancher could no longer sell water to a drilling rig because it wasn’t part of his water rights.

“Why did it become an issue when we were starting to get drilling in central Montana?” asked Olson, who works in the oil and gas industry.

Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, sponsored the Senate resolution to confirm Sexton’s nomination.

He said he found the legislative audits of DNRC during her eight years had all been “clean.”

Some criticized her position on hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking.” It’s a method to pushing a combination of chemicals thousands of feet below the earth’s surface to break up geological formation to release oil and gas.

“There are people who have suggested she’s anti-fracking,” Jergeson said. “That is in error. There are areas in fracking where she thinks we need to pay attention to water rights and water quality. I don’t think she should be faulted for having that concern. ”

Water is “a precious resource in Montana,” Jergeson said.

In response, Sexton said, “I deferred to state law that they had to have legal availability of the water.”

Both in Teton County and the Bakken Formation, there have been examples of illegal water use for drilling and fracking, she said.

“I think they have to have a valid water right to require water for drilling and fracking,” she said.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. End Daze
    Report Abuse
    End Daze - April 19, 2013 9:35 am
    Most scientists any more get funding from the government. Their views and their findings had darn well better conform to the leftists political agenda, or they won't get grants and paychecks. Just ask yourself why it was that the ND legislators had to make it a Congressional issue to get the government to release information about the Bakken. The government shelved it and didn't want to report on scientific findings until they were forced to do so. If politics aren't at play, why would that have happened?
  2. fidlr
    Report Abuse
    fidlr - April 19, 2013 8:28 am
    So the state Board of Oil and Gas Conservation.is to be short handed until the next legislature meets in two years? Does that make sense?
  3. Pipeguy
    Report Abuse
    Pipeguy - April 19, 2013 8:20 am
    These childish actions of the Teatard republicans of opposing the Governors nominations make them look stupid. 6% of scientists are republicans and political stunts like this demonstrate why.
  4. Jamey
    Report Abuse
    Jamey - April 19, 2013 5:24 am
    So Olson believes if it involves oil and gas drilling, water laws don't apply. Interesting, maybe he should sponsor a bill that says that or have a legislative referendum that says that.

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