To the Editor,
After living in western North Dakota for 25 years and experiencing the effects of the Bakken oil boom on surrounding communities, ourselves 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 an 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
•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.)
•Long standing, fixed income citizens cannot afford to live there any longer. Had N.D. 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 and more money. Choose your elected officials carefully. Research their promises. Research and 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.