Montana Preps for Impacts of Bakken Drilling

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – State and federal officials will offer residents of north-central Montana a primer on the potential environmental and community effects of anticipated oil and gas development.

The March 1 meeting in Choteau comes as drilling activity in the rich Bakken fields of eastern Montana and western North Dakota spills over into areas of Glacier, Teton and other central Montana counties.

Tom Richmond with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation said several companies have been drilling exploratory wells on the prairie east of the Rocky Mountain Front and on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Richmond says the efforts are aimed at tapping into the Exshaw geological formation thousands of feet beneath the surface, also known as the Alberta Bakken.

“People are up there buying leases, checking titles in the courthouse so there’s quite a bit of interest,” Richmond said.

The Choteau meeting will include discussions of hydraulic fracturing and other drilling techniques, protection of water supplies, and regulations for “man-camps” such as new trailer courts and campgrounds, state Department of Environmental Quality officials said.

DEQ spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said the event was organized after officials observed the rapid growth of some eastern Montana communities, driven by industry interest in the Bakken.

The drilling boom has created more jobs but also taxed government services. Rising pressure on law enforcement p recently prompted an increase in the number of Montana Highway Patrol troopers assigned to the area.

The Choteau meeting will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Stage Stop Inn and include speakers from the DEQ and the federal Bureau of Land Management.