Posted by: MC | November 5, 2013

Fracking — Any Hope of Listening Here?

Hell? or North Dakota? This satellite photos shows the magnitude of oil development in the Bakken field (outlined in red) previously one of the the Lower 48's most sparsely inhabited places. The lights you see are not towns but flares from oil wells. Projections suggest this development will triple? quadruple? or more.

Hell? or North Dakota? This satellite photos shows the magnitude of oil development in the Bakken field (outlined in red) previously one of the the Lower 48’s most sparsely inhabited places. The lights you see are not towns but flares from oil wells. Projections suggest this development will triple? quadruple? or more.

NOTE:  Here’s a brief statement by a conservation writer and a response from a person with another opinion.  Both are residents of the same area of Montana.  My question to myself – to all of us – is how can these two people listen to one another?  How can they be in conversation toward some level of understanding – even action?  Is it possible?

And before I leave you to read their words, consider this.  The man in the first section leans toward a more progressive political identity, the woman in the second comment leans toward a more conservative political identity.  However, the man’s position emphasizes local control and the woman’s position emphasizes reasoning that she sees as more beneficial across the communities of this country.  Each of these positions is more typical of the other’s political tendencies.

So, what do you hear?  What would your ideas be for bringing these two people into dialogue?      –mc

[a note on the photo follows these comments]

Conservation Writer:

Here we go. Again. Back in the early 90’s, it was plans to drill for oil on the Line Creek Plateau, on tundra so fragile that it takes a thousand years to build a single inch of soil. Then it was the Noranda Corporation, plotting to dig for gold at the edge of Yellowstone National Park. Now, big plans for fracking. Ten days ago, Energy Corporation of America Chief Executive John Mork stood before a crowd in Billings, Montana and, as if bearing boundless good news, announced with a smile that his Denver company had returned after a thirty-year hiatus. And furthermore, that they’re planning to exploit oil resources in the region, in large part by means of fracking – all a stone’s throw from the little tourist town where I live, on the front edge of one of the last great wilderness reserves in the continental United States.

“I would love to bring something like the Bakken … to the area in the Big Horns and other areas in Montana,” said Mork.“It would fundamentally change these areas the way it has changed other areas of the United States.”

Of course those of us who live here, worry that some of those changes might be at the expense of the environment. Fracking even a single well, after all, can require literally millions of gallons of water – a harsh reality in an increasingly arid West. Further, given that many parts of the fracking operation require handling and transport of passage of toxic chemicals, both above ground and beneath it, contamination problems aren’t just sourpuss fantasy. And there’s also growing proof that methane levels tend to increase significantly in water wells near fracking operations – a contention recently verified by a Duke University Study, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But in truth, the real changes may end up being levied on the human environment. Over in the Bakken, in Watford City, North Dakota, between 2006 and 2011 police calls increased a hundred fold. Just last week members of a federal task force brought in to try to help local authorities deal with increased major crime in the Bakken, compared it to the heyday of street gangs in Los Angeles during the early 90’s; also to the rampages thirty years ago in Florida by the so-called cocaine cowboys. Meanwhile in nearby Williston, North Dakota, DUI’s and assault continue to skyrocket; on average now, more than once a week come reports of rape.

So right now a lot of my neighbors are gearing up for a fight. A big one. As if their lives and the land they’ve come to know and love depend on it. God speed.


[This writer’s] comments are so stupid and his mind so set there is no way to argue with this kind of “NIMBY on steroids” attitude.  NIMBY means Not in My Back Yard.  First off the Bakken is the largest oil discovery in America; that is not what we are talking about here.  But it might bring some people jobs in [our community].  Is that so bad?  Fracing (yes, that is the proper spelling in the oil industry) has been around for 66 years but the conservationists just do not want anyone else’s discovery or coming to live in their little slice of heaven.  There is more methane in and around [our town] from cattle and sheep so should we ban ranching and farming?  Oh what about all those chemicals they have to transport and use on their farms and ranches?  Oh what about all the wild animals contaminating the water?  Remember if not for coal, our community would not exist.  I think you are all being selfish and hypocritical but I am through arguing with people who will not use science done by non-patrician entities.  Bottom line, you all have No say in this because it is Private Land.


[THE PHOTO:  A friend and Mandan/Hidatsa tribal member put this image on his facebook page – the Three Affiliated Tribes of N Dakota are immediately and profoundly affected by the changes associated with fracking.  This is his caption.      –mc

Hell? or North Dakota? This satellite photos shows the magnitude of oil development in the Bakken field (outlined in red) previously one of the the Lower 48’s most sparsely inhabited places. The lights you see are not towns but flares from oil wells. Projections suggest this development will triple? quadruple? or more.]


  1. The person who wrote the response never once used the word “discuss.” Instead, the word “argue” was used. I really have no desire to argue, but I’d like to have an intelligent discussion. His/her point of view has good points, but the belligerence and “so there” attitude came through loud and clear.
    I’d like to include my 2 cents after living, working, farming, raising children in the Bakken area for years:
    After living in western North Dakota for 25 years and experiencing the effects of the Bakken oil boom on surrounding communities, our family and our farm, I’ve pulled together a list of the negative side of oil extraction. These are rarely, if ever, mentioned in glowing articles crowing about energy independence and the economic bonanza:
    Increase drug use (Meth and heroin use especially)
    Increase in sexual assaults (Many go unreported because of courts that are backlogged.)
    Increase of prostitution
    Increase of vehicular accidents (Many truck drivers are untrained and inexperienced on ice/snow.)
    Increase in crime rate (personal and property)
    Inflated and opportunistic housing rates
    Inflated and opportunistic food and service prices
    Increase of truck traffic (Equipment, gravel, frack fluid, salt water, enter and exit daily.)
    Roads under constant construction 24/7
    Roads that are dangerously damaged and slow to repair
    Lack of adequate law enforcement
    Overcrowded schools
    Unreasonable and prohibitive rental rates for teachers and service providers
    Overwhelmed and understaffed medical facilities (EMS and ambulance crews are burned out.)
    Infrastructure unable to handle sewer and water because of massive man camps)
    Squatters living in barns and abandoned buildings. Our relative had to obtain a court order to get a man
    out of his rental unit after trashing the place and not paying rent.)
    Noise, dust clouds, flares, bad air quality, (An oil worker died from inhaling hydrogen sulphide.)
    Increase solid toxic waste dumps from fracking
    As land increased in value (because of the boom) our real estate taxes increased
    Poorly reclaimed land reducing farm production (We were assured this would not be a problem.)
    Pipeline leaks (many unreported)
    Long standing, fixed income citizens cannot afford to live there any longer.
    Had ND politicians NOT been in such a mad rush to appease oil companies, many of these problems could have been managed or eliminated. Bakken oil has been in the ground for 250 million years. It isn’t going anywhere. This was about making money fast, for a very few, with little regard for our communities. At times, it felt like a steam roller.
    Be careful, Montana. Look deeper than the promises of better communities, jobs, and more money. Choose your elected officials carefully. Research their promises. Talk to people who are currently living in the Bakken or have relocated. Even people who have benefited financially from oil are wishing life could return to “normal.” This should not be a political issue where people line up behind an ideology. This is a community issue that will effect everyone of us. Oil is a cultural reality. I drive a car and heat my house, too. I’m saying, weigh the impact on our community and keep asking questions that address the negatives. There’s a price to pay for unregulated, reckless, hurried oil extraction. Believe me, you don’t want “something like the Bakken” here.

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