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Oil Fracking Boom Causes Anxiety in North Dakota

Dec 5, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
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An oil fracking boom in western North Dakota is straining the resources of rural communities there, leading many to question whether the benefits accompanying the oil rush are worth the disruption it has brought in its wake.

The fracking boom is centered in the Bakken oil field, one of the biggest energy plays in American history. According to a report from NPR, the industry believes that by employing hydraulic fracturing technologies, as much as 2 billion barrels of oil could be extracted from the field.  There are 201 oil drilling rigs already operating in the Bakken field, and before the rush is over, as many as 48,000 new wells could be dug.   Drilling could continue in the field for two decades, NPR said.

The boom has meant low unemployment for North Dakota, as well increased revenues flowing to state coffers. But there's also been a down side - pollution, near-constant truck traffic, and a population spike the area's small rural communities are ill-equipped to handle.

"What we have now is the complete industrialization of western North Dakota. To expect a county of 20,000 people to overnight absorb another 20,000 people is ludicrous," Dan Kalil, chairman of the Williams County Commission, recently told NPR.

"They're consuming all of our people looking for jobs. All the employee base is used up. Our roads system is being used up. All our water is being used up. All our sewage systems are being used up. [They're] overwhelmed. All of our leadership time as local public officials is consumed with this."

According to NPR, many western North Dakota residents worry that the area’s traditional farming and ranching culture will not be able to co-exist with oil industry.

"Just about anybody I talk to that's a neighbor — and some of them are getting wealthy — are sick of it. It's never going to be the same in this country, and they're starting to realize that we had it kind of good, even though we weren't No. 1 in oil and we weren't the No. 1 state economically," Rancher Donnie Nelson told NPR. "We had a good life up here."




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