One issue we’ve touched on several times is how oil and gas drilling increases the flow of traffic, and the problems this causes in rural areas.
A single well can require 400-800 or more truck trips, and wells are frequently grouped together, so a rural well location can stress roads well beyond their ability to handle the traffic. Here’s a quick breakdown of the kind of traffic required:
- When drilling begins, heavy excavation equipment must be hauled in to grade the access road and level a multi-acre drilling pad. Then trucks haul in hundreds of tons of crushed stone for final construction of the road and drilling pad.
- Multiple tractor-trailer loads are then required to haul in the various parts of the drill rig, while later hauling away these same parts from the gas well site.
- The largest volume of truck traffic begins with the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells, especially if more than one well is fracked at the same time. Frac pumps, holding tanks, tanker trucks and a wide variety of support trucks and equipment eventually crowd the frac site. During fracking, tractor-trailer loads of sand are continually delivered to the well site.
- Once the frac is complete, scores of trucks from service companies arrive to complete the wells. Finished wells require regular visits from well tenders and other service equipment. Some individual trucks weighed as much as 80,000 to 100,000 lbs when fully loaded.
A real world example
Our place is on Stillwater River Road at the Beehive in Nye, and our road doesn’t look too different from the main road of Towanda Township, in Bradford County Pennsylvania. On the Stillwater, thanks in large part to the Good Neighbor Agreement with the Stillwater Mine, traffic is modest. That 45 mile speed limit in Towanda is a little aggressive for our stretch of the road.
We’d like to keep it that way, and I’ll bet the people of Towanda wish they’d have been able to.
Here’s how that same road looks today, after a high volume of overweight drilling trucks and a wet winter. They’re going to have to reduce that speed limit or pave the road, neither of which is a very good option for residents of the area.
And anybody who thinks Governor Bullock will be here any time soon to cut the ribbon on new road construction had better think again. Montana’s oil and gas tax holiday means there’s just not going to be adequate money from the state to maintain the roads if fracking becomes common practice.
So what’s the answer? Professor Susan Christopherson of Cornell University conducted interviews with residents of areas affected by fracking. One key theme was a mistrust of state regulators, and a desire to have local government regulate the fracking industry to make sure that their quality of life was maintained.
It’s a reasonable approach.