Not Keeping Their Powder Dry
The Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming is the center of coalbed methane mining (CBM) in the United States — and now, for the first time, private citizens in the basin have sued a CBM company for damages to their land. Dan and Mary Brannaman, who own a ranch in the basin but not the mineral reserves underneath it, are suing Michigan-based Paxton Resources for more than $250,000 in property damage. The company signed an agreement assuring the Brannamans that CBM crews would not harm their property; nevertheless, the couple says, crew members tore out fencing, left trash and cigarettes littered about, relieved themselves on the land, spilled oil, and built roads in inappropriate locations. The Brannamans say Paxton’s practices hurt their business, damaged rangeland, and devalued their property. The company denies any wrongdoing. The suit is one sign of increasing unhappiness among Westerners with the resource-extraction industry.