To the Editor,
I’m hearing rumors of an oil play in Carbon and surrounding counties. As a land owner in, and refugee from the Bakken, I have some insight into the oil business and I have some advice for those who live here. I don’t know the geology of this area, but if the play is even one fiftieth of the Bakken, you need to get ready. All levels of government need to take control. If we don’t take this control, the oil companies will. I don’t demonize oil companies. They are just doing their job, but it’s your land, it’s your roads, it’s your schools, and it’s even your oil. Elected officials need to treat this commodity as the valuable resource that it is.
Rather than getting in bed with oil companies, they need to be good sales people, get tough, drive hard bargains, and remember that this place, and it’s people have more value than any oil that might be found. Here are some personal observations from our farm. Massive amounts of gravel are needed for roads and locations. A neighbor counted 1000 trucks a day on the small township road in front of his farm when they opened a new gravel pit. We put up with a salt water disposal well near our farm that saw truck traffic, lights, and noise 24 hours a day. The 10,000 truck trips to every well, start to finish, travel in all conditions from dusty dry to road ruining wet. A 160 acre solid waste dump was proposed near a rancher friend’s home. It was only stopped because Mountrail Co. was one of the few counties with some zoning laws. Just north of our place, a contract sewage co. was caught dumping human waste into natural ponds. What can you do?
While local entities may not have much control over what’s under the ground, they do have control over what happens to the surface. Get those zoning laws in place. At the state level, one of the problems in North Dakota was legislators from areas not impacted were anxious to start getting this easy money, which meant less regulation. For example a legislator from Missoula might say, “yippee, let’s get this rolling” because they won’t feel the negative affects. We will. With that in mind, maybe we could make oil companies ship their waste to unaffected counties, so that they will share the bad with the good. Always remember that while oil companies are not evil, they are not your friend, and they will do whatever it takes to get what they want. And in my experience, that includes lying.