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Gas drilling in Sweet Grass County is becoming more of a reality every day. Sweet Grass now has three exploratory wells with more to come once natural gas prices increase. We all know we need gas to meet our energy needs, but I can think of something else that is even more essential: clean water.

With drilling new wells comes hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is when toxic chemicals, water, and synthetic sand are pumped under high pressure into the ground to crack the rock and release the gas or oil. Fracking a well doesn't always go as planned, and chemicals can migrate into drinking water. The industry is exempt from any regulation and from disclosing to the public what they pump underground. As a result, industry can escape the blame for water contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency recently tested polluted wells in Pavillion, Wyo., where natural gas, oil and fracking chemicals got into drinking water. Out of the 19 wells tested, 89 percent of them had oil traces in them. Soon after, the EPA warned residents not to drink the water.

Wyoming has since recognized that now is the time to protect its clean water and has imposed rules to disclose fracking fluids. Disclosure is going smoothly with little complaint from industry. Let's be proactive in Montana and for disclosure before there is a problem. Landowners have a right to know what could get into their drinking water.

Cindy Webber

Big Timber

Steve Prosinski is editor of The Billings Gazette. Contact him at 406-657-1289 or sprosinski@billingsgazette.com

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