When you drill, you spill
Montana has experienced 461 oil and gas spills since 2015, according to a new factsheet by Environment Montana Research & Policy Center. These accidents have released a total of 6 million gallons of wastewater and 298,000 gallons of oil onto Montana land and waterways.
“The research is clear: when you drill, you spill,” said Skye Borden, state director at Environment Montana Research & Policy Center. “Our state’s oil and gas development comes with very real costs to our waterways, our wildlife, and our health.”
The majority of the spills were in eastern Montana, in an oil-rich area known as the Williston Basin. But spills were recorded throughout the state, including at sites 50 miles from Yellowstone National Park and 45 miles from Glacier National Park. At least 29 of the spills occurred on federally-owned public land.
Toxic substances in oil and gas wastewater have been linked to a variety of negative health effects on humans and fish. Chemical components in fracking fluids, for example, have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and neurological and immune system problems. Spills have also been responsible for large-scale fish die offs.
“Despite the threat spills pose to wildlands and wildlife, the Interior continues to approve drilling permits in some of our wildest, most ecologically-sensitive areas,” said Borden. “And every new permit creates new dangers for our public lands and the people who enjoy them.”
The Interior is currently considering a drilling permit in the Tendoy Mountains in Montana’s High Divide. This region is one of America’s largest intact ecosystems; it provides important habitat for grizzly bears, wolverines, cutthroat trout, and many of Montana’s big game species. The project’s environment assessment notes that potential spills could impact surrounding rivers’ water quality.
“Given their track record, I don’t think it’s possible for the oil and gas industry to operate responsibly – especially in our wildest places,” said Borden. “Drilling in Montana simply isn’t worth the risk.”