Posted: Oct 9, 2012 8:42 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Candidates across Montana are talking about the oil boom and what the state Legislature can do to help address the impacts.
Richland County and Fallon County are the two biggest producers of oil in Montana, but now residents in Daniels County are beginning to see to production start in their area.
Apache Corporation is drilling the very first oil well there, about 40 miles northeast of Opheim. Julie French lives in the area and is running as a Democrat in Senate District 18.
"As a person who has lived here all my life, there is excitement with the opportunity for economic growth in our communities," French says. "But there is also the worry and the concern about the impacts that will naturally come with this development."
Oil companies receive a tax break during the first year a well is pumping. But, French says, the Montana Legislature needs to look at changing that tax holiday so local governments have more money to deal with impacts to water and sewer systems and roads.
French says that's not all. She says often times landowners don't own the mineral rights on their property and so the Legislature needs to look at protecting the landowners.
"In here are pages and pages of mineral leases that have been recorded at the county courthouse. As I look at this one, from one month, I would guess that I only know 20% of the mineral owners that are leasing in Daniels County," French says.
French says that with many of the mineral owners out of state, they often cut deals with oil companies and the landowners are out of the loop.
French's opponent this November, state Senator John Brenden (R-Scobey), also says the Legislature needs to change a few things, but the tax holiday isn't one of them.
"I think if you stop the holiday here in Daniels County, let alone eastern Montana, these companies are going to go to North Dakota," Brenden argues.
He says the problem lies with the State of Montana that takes about 50% of all the production taxes and leaves the other 50% to the counties and school districts.
Brenden would like to see all of it stay at the local level.
"It should all come back to the local level. I don't care whether those taxes are in Chouteau County, I don't care if they are in Missoula County, wherever that impact is," Brenden says.