A pair of U.S. senators met Monday with executives from the energy company BP, urging them not to drill for natural gas on the Canadian side of the Flathead River basin out of concern polluted water could flow into Montana. ( AP )
Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Montana Democrats, met separately with a group of executives from the company that included BP America President Bob Malone and BP Canada President Randy McLeod.
BP plans to seek a permit next year in southern British Columbia to drill up to six exploratory wells in a region that abuts the Montana border. The company hopes to extract coal-bed methane, a type of natural gas, from the Crowsnest Coal Field, a 190-square mile area that includes rivers draining into the United States.
The two senators said the development could put at risk waters flowing into Glacier National Park and other parts of northwest Montana. Large volumes of poor-quality water are discharged during coal-bed methane extraction.
"I made very clear to them that we're just not going to let this happen," Baucus said following the meeting. "They said they would do nothing to potentially threaten the basin for 10 years. I don't care if it's one year or a hundred years, we don't want it."
Baucus also said he asked the company to seek an independent environmental review of the project.
Spokesman Matt McKenna said Tester "stands united with Sen. Baucus against any development that would harm the pristine ecosystem in the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park."
BP spokeswoman Anita Perry said the exploratory wells would not be in the Flathead basin but in the neighboring Elk River Valley. She declined to comment on the outcome of Monday's meeting, saying she had not yet spoken to the executives involved.
"Whether we go into the Flathead or not, we need to have some more collection of information on the hydrology, the fish habitat, those type of things," Perry said. "We need to take this one step at a time."