My name is Sue Beug. I live in Carbon County Montana. I guess my story starts when I was younger growing up in Colorado. We had oil and gas development…we have a farm that’s in what’s known as the Wattenberg field. It’s between Greeley and Denver, on the eastern slope of Colorado. My dad signed an oil and gas lease in 1971, and it was quite interesting, because we went back and finally researched it, and got the original lease. In the original lease, my dad had setbacks of 200 feet from every well. He had no development between April 1 and November 1, because it’s a working farm, and he didn’t want any disruption while there was farming going on—which I thought was really interesting now, because they’re screaming and hollering about having setbacks and all these other things, and he had the forethought at that time.
I think one of things that we really need to do is get people who are signing leases to understand that they can make stipulations. They can say things in their lease about what they do and don’t want. I think that the oil companies are a lot more amenable to signing those things, and giving people what they want. But people don’t know that they can do that. And the oil and gas company certainly isn’t going to tell them. So if there was more transparency, and if they might say, you know, “These are things you might want to consider,” without having to go to an attorney before you do that, and spend lots of money, because people don’t have the money. A lot of times, that’s why they’re signing the lease– is for the money part of it.
When I first started being concerned about oil and gas, it was because we had some issues in our own county, and then I got to thinking back about the fact that I had grown up with oil and gas, and it seemed like Montana was definitely not as protective as other states, and I was very concerned about that. So I started really researching what we had for regulations, and what kind of things we had that would help people. And I started doing things like going to the Montana Board of Oil and Gas, which, the first couple of times, was a little scary, and then you figure out that these are just people, like you and me, and though they may have very different opinions, most of them are pretty willing to listen to you. So I think everybody should be a little more concerned about their environment, and where we’re going, and it doesn’t take that much to inform yourself. And if we don’t do something now, particularly in the state of Montana — we have a chance now, while the oil prices are down, to actually make an impact, and set some rules and regulations, which oil and gas in other states has to do. So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the same sorts of rules and regulations here as other people do in other places.
I’ve been attending the Montana Board of Oil and Gas meetings. They seem to have changed their attitude tremendously from when we first started going. They’re really a lot more receptive to the landowner, and complaints. I hope this will continue, and that they’ll actually listen to landowners’ complaints, I think people– for one thing, going before a Board is always a little scary for people, and it’s like, “well, do I really want to do this?” and the other thing is, “what’s the use, because they’re going to go for the oil and gas industry.” And that’s pretty much been their record. It’s generally like, “well, I’m sorry, but you’re not allowed, because the mineral owner is the one who has the rights to do whatever they please.” And most of the– or a lot of the mineral owners are not the people that live on the land. They’re not even people that live in the state. Companies that own all these leases bought up a lot of them, and they really could care less about the communities, or the environment, or their impact. So that’s kind of where I’m coming from.
Carbon County, MT