Coal Bed Methane

Federal, State, and Local Laws,
Regulations, and Permits That May Be Required

This is a partial list. Check back for updates.

Federal Clean Water Act & Regulations

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Montana Regulatory Information Page

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. All Montana and Wyoming waterbodies and wetlands are regulated under Section 404. Typical Section 404 activities: Riprap, Roadway Fills, Jetties, Channel Blocks, Dikes/Dams, Boat Ramps, Channel Changes.
Clean Water Act, 33 USC 1341 Chapter 26 - Water Pollution Prevention and Control
Clean Water Act, Section 404 Regulations (33 Parts 320-330) and 404(b)(1)
Applications for Section 404 Permits should be forwarded directly to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Helena Regulatory Office, 301 South Park, Drawer 10014, Helena, MT 59626-0014. The Montana Joint Application should be used for all projects within the State.

Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Regulations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program
The Safe Drinking Water Act established the UIC Program to provide these safeguards so that injection wells do not endanger current and future underground sources of drinking water. The EPA has the authority to control underground drinking water sources. The EPA has identified five classes of wells defined by the type of waste they inject and where the waste is injected. Visit the EPA website for definitions of the five classes and for comprehensive information on the UIC program.
The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation has been delegated responsibility for Class II wells in Montana (except on tribal lands). Class II wells include injection of brines and other fluids associated with oil and gas production. For more information on Class II permits, contact George Hudak, Director of Class II permitting, 406-656-0040.
The EPA, Region 8 office in Denver handles all other classes of wells for Montana, including Class V wells. Class V wells are shallow wells that inject non-hazardous waste. For more information, contact Wendy Cheung: phone 303-312-6242.
Safe Drinking Water Act for the UIC Program (42 U.S.C.300h et seq.)
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR)
e-CFR Data is current as of December 11, 2012
TITLE 40--Protection of Environment
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

National Environmemtal Policy Act of 1969(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires all federal agencies to: 1. Assess the environmental impacts of major federal projects or decisions such as issuing permits, spending federal money, or actions that affect federal lands. 2. Consider the environmental impacts in making decisions. 3. Disclose the environmental impacts to the public.

An example of a project that requires compliance with NEPA is oil and gas development on federal lands. EPA Region 8, which includes Montana, rarely prepares EISs because most of the agency's federal decisions, such as issuing permits, have been delegated to the states (including Montana) and therefore no longer invoke NEPA.


Montana Board of Oil & Gas Conservation (BOGC)

Wells Drilled for the Purpose of Exploring for or Producing CBM

The Oil and Gas statutes are included in Title 82, Chapter 11, Montana Code Annotated
The BOGC general rules and regulations are contained in ARM 36.22.101 through 1706
Board Order establishing coal bed methane operating practices within the Powder River Basin Controlled Groundwater Area in Big Horn, Powder River, Rosebud, Treasure and Custer Counties, Montana, December 1999. Applies to CBM wells drilled on private and state land. It does not apply to lands owned by Indian Tribes.
Application for Permit to Drill
Montana Clean Air Act & Rules

CBM Development Air Quality Permitting Requirements

Pursuant to Sections 75-2-204 and 211 of the Montana Code Annotated, as amended any source or stack, not specifically excluded by rule, with the potential to emit greater than 25 tons per year of any regulated pollutant must obtain an air quality pre-construction permit prior to the construction or operation of the affected source.

The process of coalbed methane extraction requires the construction and operation of wells to access the gas and compressor stations to extract the gas. The compressor stations consist of various pieces of equipment with the potential to emit pollutants at varying levels depending on equipment capacities. In addition, the facility may incorporate a coalbed methane powered generator (well-head generator) located on top of the well to generate electricity. In these cases, the generator would also be a source of pollutant emissions.

A typical compressor station harvesting CBM will incorporate from 1 to 3 compressor engines varying in power from 100 to 500 hp. Operation of these natural gas fired engines results in the emission of regulated air pollutants including CO, NOx, VOC, SOx, and PM10.

Montana Water Quality Act & Rules

Board of Environmental Review (BER)

Water Pollution Control Advisory Council (WPCAC)
Water Quality Discharge Permits, 75-5-401 through 405, MCA
Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES) Permits (rules) ARM 17.30.1301 through 1426
Montana Ground Water Pollution Control System (MGWPCS) Permits (rules), ARM 17.30.1001 through 1045
Individual Montana Ground Water Pollution Control System (facility specific industrial, commercial, or municipal dischargers) Permit Application
Classification and Standards for State Waters 75-5-301, MCA
Surface Water Standards and Procedures (rules) ARM 17.30.601 through 641
Circular DEQ-7, Montana Numeric Water Quality Standards
Mixing Zones in Surface and Groundwater, 75-5-301(4), MCA
Mixing Zones in Surface and Groundwater (rules) ARM 17.30.501 through 518
Nondegradation of Water Quality, 75-5-303, MCA
Nondegradation of Water Quality (rules), ARM 17.30.701 through 717
Nonsignificant Activities, 75-5-317, MCA (no rules)
Short-term Water Quality Standards for Turbidity Related to Construction Activity, 75-5-318, MCA (no rules)
401 Certification of Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permits for Dredge and Fill Activities, 75-5-401, MCA
401 Certification of Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permits for Dredge and Fill Activities (rule) ARM 17.30.101 through 109

Montana Water Use Act

Controlled Groundwater Areas

Montana has closed some of its river basins and groundwater aquifers to certain types of water appropriations because of water availability problems, water contamination problems, and a concern for protecting existing water rights.

The Powder River Basin Controlled Groundwater Area applies to wells designed and installed for the extraction of coal bed methane. CBM development must follow the standards for drilling, completing, testing, and production of CBM wells as adopted by the BOGC (see below); CBM operators must offer water mitigation agreements to owners of water or natural springs within one-half mile of a CBM operation or within the area that the operator reasonably believes may be impacted by the CBM operation, whichever is greater. This area will automatically be extended one-half mile beyond any well adversely affected; and DNRC will designate a Technical Advisory Committee to oversee groundwater characteristics and monitoring, and reporting requirements. For specific information on the Powder River Basin Controlled Groundwater Area, consult the Final Order.

In addition to the forms required by the BOGC (see below), a Montana Well Log Report, DNRC Form 603 (click on Forms) must be completed for both production and monitoring wells when the wells are drilled and sent to DNRC within 60 days of the well completion.

Water Rights

Beneficial uses of water from CBM operations, such as for stock ponds, wildlife ponds, or irrigation requires a water right issued by DNRC as provided by law.


Conservation Districts (310 permit) - The local Conservation District is the administering agency for 310 permits.

Montana Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act, 75-7-101 through 124 MCA
Information for applicant for a 310 permit
310 Forms The Montana Joint Application should be used for all projects within the State.