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For the past several months, Montana lawmakers have been considering whether or not to give Montanans living near oil and gas development a protection people in Wyoming, North Dakota and Colorado already enjoy: oil and gas setbacks.

Oil and gas setbacks basically set a standard of the minimum distance wells can be from inhabited buildings, for example homes and schools. Right now, Montana has no policy on setbacks, leaving communities at risk.

In comparison with our neighboring oil- and gas-producing states, Montana is far behind on setbacks. In North Dakota and Wyoming, regulators have adopted a setback of 500 feet. Colorado established a more complex rule in which its typical setback of 500 feet expands to 1,000 feet near high-occupancy buildings like hospitals and schools.

Protections like this are not rocket science. Setbacks are a basic, proactive, common-sense policy that enjoys wide precedent in other oil- and gas-producing states. Setbacks keep communities safe from adverse effects of oil and gas drilling: fumes from flaring, noise from transportation, and potential leaks.

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To develop Montana’s oil and gas reserves responsibility, the livelihood of mineral owners, surface owners and all others in the community needs to be considered.

Virginia Cross,

Fishtail

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