Panelists claim no Bakken-like drilling in the Beartooths

Speaking to a crowd of over 100 community members, five panelists with knowledge about the oil boom discussed the effects of drilling activity in the Beartooths. On Dec. 10, just after Energy Corporation of America (ECA) received an approval permit to drill an exploratory well in Belfry, the panel, including ECA District Manager, Derrick Pottemeyer and retired geologist, Al Bloomar addressed the current situation and unlikelihood of Bakken-like drilling in the area. Following their presentation community members heard perspectives from land developer Chris Storm, landowners in the Bakken area, Mary and Bob Johnson and Judge Greg Mohr of Sydney, all with first-hand experience with problems and growth in oil boom communities. With community fears of Bakken-like growth and hydraulic fracking on the environment, Bloomar and Pottemeyer assured the crowd that the oil deposits and production in the area are of no comparison to those in the oil boom counties. “The Bakken covers three states, it’s a good reservoir and universal. The Mowry shale in Carbon County just doesn’t compare,” Bloomar said. When asked on a scale of ten to one of the probability of Bakken-like drilling in Carbon County, with ten being ‘yes’ and one ‘not at all’, Bloomar said, “zero” and Pottemeyer, who claims his company “strives to be an environmental leader in the industry,” said “one.” With that answer, many citizens questioned why ECA is exploring the Beartooths if the wells are not as economical and productive as other areas. “If the profit is so marginal and there’s no money, why are you here, why not leave,” said Red Lodge resident Derek McManus. Recently, ECA set up an office in Billings, spurring debate over Bakken-like activity in the Beartooths, especially after President and CEO John Mork’s controversial statement to the Billings Gazette of hopes to bring a more contained Bakken to the area. To address the effects the oil boom has on communities, Mary and Bob Johnson, who live in Red Lodge, yet still farm outside of Williston, N.D., discussed the changes they have seen in the past six years, including increasing crime, traffic, lack of employment in schools, the medical field and law enforcement, and the sense that the oil industry has taken over what was once a quiet, safe community. Despite assurances that the Beartooths cannot become the Bakken, panelists agreed that having a master plan, being proactive and staying informed is the key to avoid the many problems communities in the Bakken now see day-to-day.