Tongue River Country Battles Coal Bed Methane

A few rainbows swim around in this gorgeous river flowing through the heart of lonesome southeast Montana. There are even fewer browns and plenty of carp, but that’s not really the point here. Tongue River country flows to its own rhythm a lot like Coltrane did in A Love Supreme. Seems like anything cool in this land is under some kind of threat and the same holds true with this liquid tune. Open pit coal mining a little bit to the southwest of here is tearing up the land, and oil pumpjacks bob up and down across the prairie. Now a new partner in crime is making its presence felt. Coal bed methane is riding roughshod over the coulees and bluffs for an energy voracious country and using lots of water in the process. The oil and gas industry barons will leave the land bone dry and with a lot less life than they first found it if they continue with their rampaging ways. And even having lots of money can’t always help.

A Montana state judge ruled that an energy company has the right to explore and drill for natural gas on an 82,000-acre Diamond Cross cattle ranch owned by the billionaire Forrest E. Mars Jr., of candy bar fame. Mars’ attorneys fought the proposed drilling but the company, Pinnacle Gas Resources – who owns mineral rights on some of this property, began drilling 90 minutes after the judge issued his ruling in January 2008. The speedy response on the part of the company was because its leases were set to expire within a week if it did not act. At the time Lonnie Wright, the son-in-law of Forrest Mars and the manager of the 82,000-acre Diamond Cross ranch, said that there was no choice but to let the company on the ranch property. “I got lots I could add but nothing that would help the situation,” he said.

Last week (mid-September 2009) the river was stilling running good and blue. Diamond Cross Ranch’s holdings seemed okay, but when a guy worth $14 billion can’t get his way with the oil and gas boys you know some heavy darkness is going down.


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