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I live on our family ranch 12 miles south of Big Timber, on the Boulder River. In 2008, the state of Montana leased the river bed, only 420 feet north of our home for oil and gas development. Under current law, we would not have received any notification of any development that was about to occur.

Thankfully, that could change. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation is slated to vote on a drilling notification rule at their regular meeting Wed. Dec. 14. If approved, this rule would require oil and gas companies to notify occupied buildings — like homes, hospitals, and schools — within a 1/4 mile of a proposed well before a well permit would be approved by the board. The rule gives notified parties 14 days within which to submit a protest of the permit to the BOGC.

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Northern Plains Oil and Gas Task Force drafted landowner protection legislation for the 2015 legislature to consider. Our bills were tabled and we were directed to the BOGC for rule making. We followed through on their suggestion and the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation has studied the implications of the proposed rule thoroughly. Now is the time for them to approve a rule giving surface owners the protection of this two-week notification.

-- Cindy Webber, Big Timber

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