Gillette, Wy – A proposed settlement of a lawsuit that
pits Wyoming against Montana in a dispute over coal-bed methane
water quality rules calls for sharp restrictions on industry along
the Tongue River, but would set lower standards for other
southeastern Montana waterways.
Several energy companies used Montana claiming that the state's
water quality rules would dampen coal-bed methane development in
the Powder River Basin. Wyoming later joined the suit on the side
of the companies.
The outcome of that litigation is considered crucial to how fast
and where future development occurs in the Powder River Basin. The
basin straddles the Montana-Wyoming line and is one of the largest
coal-bed methane fields in the nation with more than 20,000 wells,
mostly in Wyoming.
Energy companies pump water from the ground during production,
and much of the discharged water contains high levels of sodium and
State officials say they haven't decided yet whether to agree to
the proposed settlement. If the parties don't settle, the case will
go back to court before U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer in