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Legal Expert on Fracking Has Advice for Montana Communities

PHOTO: Helen Slottje, a legal expert on fracking, is speaking about community rights at the annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council. Photo courtesy of Helen Slottje.
PHOTO: Helen Slottje, a legal expert on fracking, is speaking about community rights at the annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council. Photo courtesy of Helen Slottje.
November 13, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. - A legal expert on "local control" is speaking in Montana on Saturday about how local laws can help communities protect themselves against fracking and other oil and gas development.

Attorney Helen Slottje's legal research has inspired more than 200 communities around the country to adopt policies to control development, and the laws have been held up in court. Slottje says the oil and gas industry fights the local laws on every front, and enlists big names for their cause.

"It's interesting, and ironic, to watch conservatives try to explain why all of the sudden the state, or better yet the federal government, should be making these decisions and not local communities," she says.

According to Slottje, residents of small towns usually do not want their communities to become industrialized, and even a promise of jobs doesn't make the idea of more traffic and temporary residents appealing. Slottje is speaking at the 43rd annual Northern Plains Resource Council meeting in Billings.

Slottje is helping any interested community pursue how they can step in and take control, even when they think they have no rights. Some states have passed laws attempting to overrule local decisions that would control, or even ban, fracking - but they don't hold up in court.

"That's what this is really all about," she says. "People being in charge of their own communities."

Slottje is the 2014 winner of the Goldman Prize, which honors grassroots environmental heroes - one from each continent, each year.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT