Should the state of Montana take the lead in the Glendive oil spill?
Security guards working for Exxon Mobil Corp. have closely guarded access to the command post on the second floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Billings, where the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies also are stationed. Attempts by The Associated Press to talk to government officials there in the first days after the spill were denied.
Schweitzer says the company and EPA have defied state open government laws by denying public access. So on Friday, he opened an alternate state-run Yellowstone River Oil Spill Information Center, underscoring mounting tensions over the pipeline rupture that has dirtied parts of the scenic waterway.
"Montana has a much higher standard than Exxon Mobil when it comes to transparency," Schweitzer said. "We won't be involved in secret meetings and secret documents." - USA TODAYOnce the state of Montana took control of the situation everything changed for the landowners. All of a sudden we had access to every document we wanted without having to go through an arduous Freedom of Information Act process with the EPA. All the records the state of Montana had were ours too. We had access to our own independent soil and water testing. We could walk into any meeting without a security guard trying to stop us. We had DEQ staff showing up at our farm to help us butcher chickens and tell us how the remediation was going. Every morning I could talk to someone about my concerns. Information was flowing, people were being honest, DEQ staff was allowed to say exactly what they thought. At one point, when Exxon tried to keep me from the Crowne Plaza command center, Tom Livers stopped them and took me in. I'm not sure he remembers doing it but I've always appreciated that. Thank you, Tom. This is what I mean when I say I want the state of Montana to take the lead in Glendive. When the state of Montana takes the lead in the right way the public is in control. I'm sure it isn't necessary to do this in the flashy way that Schweitzer did but there are ways for the state to make sure they are in control and the public is getting all the information they want. In a sense, what Governor Schweitzer did was what every politician should strive to do. He returned the power back to us, the public, and took it away from Exxon and the EPA. I'm sure that Schweitzer did what he did for many reasons, not just because he knew it was the right thing to do. Honestly, I don't care what his intentions were during the oil spill. All I know is he helped us when we needed it. I'm not telling you what is or isn't happening in Glendive. All I know is what happened to us. Bridger Pipeline is not Exxon so there are probably not security guards keeping you out of public meetings. Maybe everything is going well and there is a high level of transparency and openness. I really hope that is the case. But in my experience, when something like this happens, the tendency of the government agencies and politicians is to withdraw from the public and to keep information from us. If you are not getting the answers you need or want, let me know.