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Residents speak out against proposed drilling in Badger Two Med - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Residents speak out against proposed drilling in Badger Two Medicine

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Blackfeet prayer and song held before meeting (MTN News photo) Blackfeet prayer and song held before meeting (MTN News photo)
CHOTEAU -

More than 100 people turned out at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau on Wednesday to hear and make public comment on proposed drilling in Badger Two Medicine.

Following a Blackfeet prayer and song, a meeting of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) showed staggering public opposition to oil and gas drilling in Badger Two Medicine.

Representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, the state historic preservation office, and the Blackfeet Tribe all testified to the area's historic importance. Blackfeet council member Joe McKay recalled an encounter with a USFS ranger.

"He said point to the place that is culturally significant and I put my hand over the whole area and I said this whole area is culturally significant."

Oil and gas leases in the area have been controversial since they were issued in 1981. Opponents believe that an exploratory well proposed by permit holder Solenex LLC would open the area to irreversible damage.

"No action can mitigate or minimize the damage caused by drilling," McKay said.

The only person to speak in favor of the well was Solenex attorney Steve Lechner who said the area of the well was already developed with railroads highways and power lines

"The good news if the well is productive it will also mean jobs and increased revenue for Glacier County and this explains why Glacier County supported the well in 1993."

Citing a recent District Court decision in favor of Solenex, Lechner argued the USFS was illegally delaying the permit from moving forward.

"The only reasonable conclusion we can reach from this two decade delay is the Forest Service has been using the National Historic Preservation act to prevent Solenex from exercising its valuable lease rights," he said.

Commissioner Michael DesRosier said in response that regardless of the jobs, the county commission was against the drilling. He also argued that Solenex was attempting to minimize its impact.

The recommendation for or against drilling is now in the hands of the ACHP, which must make a recommendation on the drilling permit to the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack by September 21.

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