EPA Approves Water Quality Rules Dividing Montana, Wyoming
The US Environmental Protection Agency waded into a long-running skirmish between two states by approving water quality rules meant to protect southeastern Montana cropland from waste water produced during natural gas drilling in neighboring Wyoming.
Wyoming officials and oil and gas companies have assailed the rules as a threat to energy production. The rules set standards that limit how much salty water—a byproduct of drilling—can enter waterways in the Tongue and Powder River basins along the Montana/Wyoming border.
Gas production in the region has declined dramatically in recent years because of falling prices. But Montana rancher Mark Fix said that he continues to see evidence of high salt levels in the Tongue River during the annual spring runoff because of past drilling. That has forced him to alter how he irrigates his fields.
Some farmers have said their crop yields dropped by more than half due to poor-quality water flowing out of Wyoming gas fields.