Don’t “Bakkenize” the Beartooth Front

On Oct. 24, Energy Corporation of America CEO John Mork announced plans to expand development of oil and gas leases along the Beartooth and Bighorn mountains. He envisions bringing “the Bakken to the Big Horns [and the Beartooths]…and fundamentally changing these areas the way it has changed other areas of the United States.” While ECA officials are considering their grand plans to “Bakkenize” us here in scenic Montana, does anyone really believe they considered what the longer term impacts might be for those of us who live, work, and visit here? It’s About the Water As local grassroots organizations, Stillwater Protective Association and Carbon County Resource Council support our neighbors who are farmers, ranchers, teachers, business owners, artists, and retirees. Together we stand for clean water and air, and the strong local economies that rely on it, including agriculture, tourism, and recreation. ECA’s announced intent to conduct extensive drilling in the lands along the Beartooth Front will jeopardize family farms, ranches, and businesses that have been here for decades - regardless of what method they use to extract it. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) requires two to five million gallons of water per fracked well. That water will come from aquifers, lakes, or streams. Even one drilling well is a threat to all the neighboring water users; wells in our counties have already been going dry earlier and earlier each summer. In addition to the problem of where the water comes from, there’s the problem of where the water goes. According to one congressional study, more than 750 chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing. Very few are publicly disclosed. Even though up to 70% of the chemical-water stays in the ground, the chemicals have been found up to 3,000 feet away from well sites (and even further when spilled from trucks). Untreatable water is injected into deep disposal wells and will never return to the hydrologic cycle. To make matters worse, no one is watching what will happen to our water quantity. In Montana, and at the federal level, the availability of water for fracking and its impact on other water users aren’t included in any part of the permitting process for oil and gas wells. This leaves the responsibility of protecting our water supply to out-of-state oil and gas companies like ECA. Once taken, most of the water is gone for good. Social Costs While protecting our water is our top priority, we must also consider the social impacts of this development on communities. We’ve already seen a great increase in truck traffic on our two-lane roads. Heavy truck-traffic accidents typically increase in drilling areas, as well as arrests, sexually transmitted diseases, and other social ills. We don’t have the community infrastructure to handle this kind of growth, nor will taxes from oil and gas be much help. Due to Montana’s oil and gas tax holiday, drillers are exempted from paying any production taxes for their first 18 months— the most productive period in the life of a well. Montana has got to repeal this unneeded and unfair law. Our recreational and tourism economies are strong because of our area’s natural beauty. Industrializing the area around Yellowstone National Park – America’s Park – does not make economic sense for anyone but the Energy Corporation of America. Defend the Beartooth Front A recent Carbon County News poll recorded that 86% of readers do not want a Bakken in the Beartooths. More than 4,300 mostly Montana residents have already signed our online petition. Our neighbors and friends don’t want our treasured land, waterways, and rural, agricultural quality of life industrialized. We support sustainable solutions that don’t destroy our water supply. Our neighbors and friends will do what it takes to Defend the Beartooth Front. The Carbon County Resource Council, the Stillwater Protective Association, and the Northern Plains Resource Council, will not let the Beartooth Front become “Bakkenized.” For more information about how to help Defend the Beartooth Front visit, us at: www.northernplains.org/issues/oil-gas/no-fracking-the-beartooth-front/. Deborah Muth of Red Lodge chairs the Carbon County Resource Council and Charles Sangmeister of Nye chairs the Stillwater Protective Association. Both groups are affiliates of the Northern Plains Resource Council.