Posted: Apr 4, 2012 5:47 PM by Marnee Banks (KXLH Helena)
Updated: Apr 5, 2012 9:43 AM
HELENA- Environmental groups are asking the Montana Supreme Court to order the state to reexamine the impacts of oil and gas wells on the sage grouse population.
The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation conducted an environmental assessment in 2008 on 23 oil and gas wells in eastern Montana. The analysis didn't say anything about how or if the wells would impact the sage grouse population.
The National Wildlife Federation and the Montana Wildlife Federation argue that the wells could hurt the species' habitat, so they want the Montana Supreme Court to order the Board to redo the assessments.
"The Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, as a permitting agency, has a duty to take a hard look. That hard look has three components: compile relevant evidence, analyze it reasonably, and consider all pertinent data. Here, the agencies didn't do that," David Wilson, attorney for the Wildlife Federation, said.
Wilson says the Board not only ignored the impact of these 23 wells, but it failed to look at the impact that all the wells in the area would have on sage grouse.
The Board's attorney, Norman Peterson, says all but three of the wells are already drilled; he says there are nearly 900 wells in the surrounding area and the Board did its due diligence and found there was no impact.
"The sage grouse is not endangered. It's not threatened. It's not on any list that has any requirements on behalf of the federal government or state government. There are only two things that concern the sage grouse in the State of Montana and that's a license to hunt them and a bag limit."
The Montana Supreme Court must now decide whether or not to overturn the District Court ruling which ruled in favor of the Board of Oil and Gas.