What got this all started is the news that a Colorado mining company wants to exploit their oil/gas rights in the Red Lodge/Roscoe area by using fracking technology to drill up to 50 wells. Here is the 10/24/13 Billings Gazette article that describes their recent announcement. Here is a follow up article from 10/30/13 describing protests against the use of fracking in the Beartooth area.
In a nutshell, the two sides of the issue are these:
- The company has held oil/gas rights in the area for 50 years. They have not drilled during that time because the cost was too high. Now that gas prices are high and fracking technology enables them to get more oil out more cheaply, there is an economic benefit to their doing so. They have the legal right to do it, and they claim that fracking does not have a significant environmental impact, and will produce jobs and revenues into the area.
- Those who oppose the drilling say that fracking will do much to hurt the area:
- It will consume large amounts of fresh water required to run the fracking process. That water will then not be available for local agriculture and recreational uses
- The chemicals used as part of the fracking process turn the water into waste water which gets pumped back into the ground and can’t be re-used
- Fracking is not subject to the same federal regulation as other drilling, and there is a potential for accidents or purposeful mishandling of the toxic runoff
- Noise, traffic, etc. associated with the project will be disruptive
What is fracking?
Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing. It refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted.
- Here‘s a pretty good explanatory video.
- Here‘s a good neutral National Geographic video that describes the Bakken shale project in North Dakota, which many see as a model for the Beartooth project
- Here is an interactive site that provides a wealth of information about a fracking project in Pennsylvania
- This is a reasonably balanced New York TImes piece on the Pennsylvania project.
Recognizing our biases, here are some articles that expose the damage that fracking does:
- Vanity Fair, 6/21/2010
- Rolling Stone, 3/1/2012
- These photos of the Bakken Shale fields in North Dakota will give you a feel for how the oil fields might look in Montana. Click “View as a single page” to see all 10. Not a pretty sight.
What can we do?
- The first quick, no cost thing you can do is sign this petition. If you haven’t done it yet, don’t wait. Just do
- If you can afford $40, join one of the local organizations that is fighting this. There are three worth looking at:
- The Northern Plains Resource Council is the umbrella organization dedicated to environmental issues:
- The Carbon County Resource Council is based in Red Lodge and is the affiliate most focused on the fracking issue. I joined there.
- The Stillwater Protective Association is the Stillwater County local organization. They don’t seem to be on point for fracking, but they boast the creation of what appears to be a very effective Good Neighbor Agreement with the mine.