Last October John Mork, the CEO of Energy Corporation of America, announced that his company was opening a Billings office with the intention to “bring something like the Bakken” to the Beartooth Front.
The announcement shocked the residents of Carbon and Stillwater Counties in Montana, and raised deep concerns that the heavy industry of oil drilling would permanently damage their land, their water and their way of life.
A grassroots group of residents began to study options and plan for action. One of the key challenges was how to inform other residents quickly, and deliver the message in a way that wouldn’t get bogged down in traditional political divisions. The group decided to create a video that could be be passed from neighbor to neighbor to explain what was about to happen, and how the community could take action to control its own destiny.
A budget was set, and funds were quickly raised to create the video, which was shot in late June and produced over the last few weeks.
What you are seeing today is the primary video. We’ll post a shorter version on this site tomorrow. Other videos have been created as part of the process. On Monday we posted a Beartooth Flyover video, and you can find outtakes from the individual interviews on Vimeo. Last Friday we turned the Deb Thomas interview into a personal story; over time we’ll do that with some of the others.
Bonnie Martinell. Bonnie and her husband Jack are organic farmers in Belfry, near the site of the first ECA well permitted by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation. Ever since John Mork promised to bring the Bakken to the Beartooths, Bonnie has been a tireless voice in the community for fairness, rousing her neighbors to action, demanding responsible corporate behavior from ECA and its contractors, and helping to lead the effort for local action.
Bob and Mary Johnson. Bob and Mary have retired to Red Lodge from their home near Tioga, ND, where they ran a farm that has been in Bob’s family for 90 years. They impress with their balanced approach to the issue. Their experience living with the Bakken oil boom gives them a unique perspective on the challenges that face our community. They are not opposed to drilling, but recognize the importance of taking local action to do it right to protect the community.
Dennis and Cathy Rickman Hoyem. Dennis and Cathy live on a ranch in Nye that Cathy’s great grandfather originally homesteaded in the 1890s. They returned there after Dennis’ career at the Bureau of Land Management took them all over the West. In Nye, they have become deeply involved in the community; Dennis served as Stillwater County Commissioner for a term from 2005-10, and Cathy is a nurse who has served on the local hospital board, and as a lay minister at a local church. Their personal ties to the history of the area and their commitment to community have made them deeply committed to preservation of the Beartooth Front.
Deb Thomas. A fourth generation Red Lodge native, Deb has lived in the shadow of six wells near her home for the last 15 years. The experience has shaped her personal and professional life. She has had to deal with leaks, spills, air and water contamination and a major well blow out in 2006 that caused permanent contamination throughout her community. The experience has been personally transformative for her, leading her to change her career focus to help others organize to protect their communities. Deb is the subject of a personal story on this blog.
Hank Lischer. Hank has retired to Nye with wife Barbara and golden retriever Annie after a long career as a professor of tax law. For the last several months he has immersed himself in Montana land use law, and has contributed long pro bono hours to helping the grass roots group understand and take advantage of available legal options. His focus has been on helping to tilt the balance of legal power to bring fairness and legal protection to land owners and local residents.
Mark Quarles. Mark is a geological engineer with expertise in oil and gas drilling. He testified before the Montana Board of Oil and Gas regarding the Energy Corporation of America permit application, providing information about likely impacts of drilling on the community. He also examined Energy Corporation of America’s compliance record in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and found serious compliance issues that have implications for what we can expect in Montana. Mark’s perspective lends weight to the notion that state law affords small protection to local communities, and local action is required.
If you’re looking for a highly partisan political message, you’ve come to the wrong video.
The video is about the importance of community, and maintaining the rural and small town way of life that people who live along the Beartooth Front treasure. It’s also about fairness. There’s a recognition that oil drilling brings heavy industry into direct conflict with people’s lives, and that the law is unfairly weighted to a great degree in favor of the oil and gas industry and against local land owners. To shift this balance, it is critical for local residents to get informed, work together, and change local laws to protect community, precious water, and a way of life. Action is urgent; drillers are on our doorstep.
The video is intended for local residents and policy makers. It is designed as a conversation starter to help neighbors talk to neighbors, encourage people to get informed, and spur local residents to action.
As with any collaborative venture the video took a tremendous amount of effort, most of it by dedicated volunteers. We are grateful to all who contributed, but a few people need to be singled out for special thanks:
- The committee who worked to put the video plan together and execute it quickly: Deb Griffin, Becky Grey, Anne and Jane Moses, Peter Zimmer, Maggie Zaback and Hannah Hostetter.
- The Beartooth Front Joint Committee, a group of energetic and dedicated local citizens from Stillwater and Carbon Counties who have given personally to the project, contributing financially, fundraising from their neighbors, and working to implement local solutions.
- Northern Plains Resource Council and its affiliates Carbon County Resource Council and Stillwater Protective Association, which provide the glue to hold our grass roots work together.
- Our videographers, Lynn and Gage Peterson, who kept professional and creative vigilance over our exuberant volunteers.
- Our pilot, Bob Hilten of Columbus, who gave us not only the use of his plane, but his vast knowledge of the area to narrate the Beartooth Flyover video.
- Local residents, neighbors, friends, family members, poker buddies, book group members, Montanans, and people from New York to Georgia to California who saw the need and contributed over $9,000 to fund the project.
- Our storytellers and experts, who gave their time and lent their personal voices to tell this important story.
- The mysterious proprietor of our sister Facebook site, No Fracking the Beartooth Front, who helped create awareness for this project to his extensive and loyal readership every day while we were raising funds, and who invests tremendous energy in the overall effort every single day.
Recognizing that rural DSL is sometimes balky, give it a little time to load. If your Internet connection won’t let you view the video, you should be able to download the video by clicking here. Once the video player loads, start the video and wait for the file to download. It could take awhile, but then you’ll be able to watch the whole video.
- Get educated. We’ve set up a web site dedicated to providing you with information on the subject. It’s a good place to start, and we’ll be adding lots of information over time. You can sign up for updates on the site.
- Talk to your neighbors. To act locally we need all residents to be informed about these issues. Make sure they see this video, and help them understand what is at stake.
- Contact your elected officials. Click the link and call or write. It is important that our County Commissioners and Conservation Boards understand the issues and the need for action to preserve our communities.
To order the video
Feel free to share the video online. If you’d like a DVD, we’re making them available for $5 to cover duplication and postage. you can email us for information on how to order: firstname.lastname@example.org.