Montana institutes setback rule 

The Montana Board of Oil and Gas has passed a rule that broadens the state’s notification requirement to homeowners within a 1,320-foot radius of a proposed oil or gas well.

The move was hailed by a Montana conservation and agriculture group as good for transparency. But it may not stand, as others are questioning whether the board had the authority to make the new rule.

Members of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a Billings, Mont.-based conservation and family agriculture organization, have been pressing for broadened notification rules for two years.

“We have once again proven that grassroots efforts can bring results,” said council member Sue Beug.

Montana’s new rule is in line with North Dakota’s existing notification rules, which are triggered within 1,320 feet of a well. Wyoming and Colorado require notice within 1,000 feet of a well, with some exceptions. They and North Dakota also all require a 500-foot setback from an occupied dwelling, which the Montana rule doesn’t include.

-- Sidney (Mont.) Herald

Gas station cleanup delayed

Ownership of the aboveground fuel tanks at a former Noonan gas station is potentially delaying cleanup of the site.

Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan is searching for the owner.

“It’s going to be a long, drawn-out deal,” he said of the site that gained notoriety when it was discovered that dozens of radioactive filter socks had been illegally stored in the building.

The county got the property back earlier this year in a tax forfeiture. Plans are to demolish the building.

“The tanks are considered chattels. They’re not real property or affixed to the building, but separate," said Jordan, explaining that, as a result, the county cannot demolish them without finding the owner or taking ownership.

-- The Journal, Crosby

Williams project topped off

Workers marked progress on an expansion of Williams County’s administrative office space by securing the last beam on the building’s steel frame.

Placement of the 22-foot beam was preceded by a “topping out” ceremony, during which county officials and members of the construction crew signed the piece of metal before a crane hoisted it to the top of the three-story structure.

Work on the $18 million, 49,000-square-foot building, which is taking place simultaneously with construction on an expansion of the Williams County Correctional Center, has seen some delays due to weather, but is expected to be completed by this summer.

The next step is to pour concrete floors and complete the interior and exterior framing.

The entire project --including the county administrative building, a $30 million 125-bed jail addition and $6 million in renovations to the Williams County Courthouse -- continues to be priced at $54.2 million, but is expected to come in under budget, county officials say.

-- Williston Herald

Steve Andrist is the former publisher of newspapers in Crosby and Tioga. Send email to