Sometime this week the 100,000th reader will drop in here at Preserve the Beartooth Front. To me this is an amazing accomplishment, one I never imagined when I started writing about oil and gas fifteen months ago.
This site began as a way of educating myself and my extended family about oil and gas issues. I didn’t start with a preconceived notion of how I felt about it, but the more I read the more convinced I became that drilling is dangerous, and that the cards are stacked against local residents, who are mostly powerless when the oil industry comes to town. My interest has become a passion, and I’ve now written over 250 posts on the subject. I believe strongly that local citizens can make a difference if they inform themselves and work together.
About my readers
Over 94% of the hits on the site come from the United States, the large majority from Montana, and over 97% come from English speaking countries. But I’ve had visitors from 75 different nations, and I can only imagine how they got here. Were the four Saudis who dropped in oil magnates interested in my thoughts on oil prices? And how in the world did that one person from Rwanda possibly find me? It certainly sparks the imagination.
The largest single source of visitors is the No Fracking the Beartooth Front Facebook page, which has been a great partner in this endeavor. As content has built over time, more and more get here through Google searches.
Blogging is an unflinchingly democratic activity. Nobody has to read, and no one says, “I’ve got to read that” just to spare your feelings. People read if they think what you have to say is worthwhile, and take a pass if they don’t. Sometimes what I think is my best work gets a big ho-hum from readers, and sometimes a throwaway like What does David Letterman’s retirement mean to the Beartooth Front? (videos of David Letterman and Stephen Colbert ranting about fracking) brings in hordes of readers. And those who don’t agree can be much more vocal than those who do. I’ve been called some names that I had to look up.
Most read stories
But it’s interesting to look back at the posts that attracted the most readers, so I thought I’d share them. You might find one or two that you missed that are worth reading.
Here are the ten posts that attracted the most views:
- A visit to the front in the war on rural America – This post described the area around the Belfry well, and the battle that local landowners are waging to protect their properties, despite the overwhelming power held by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation and operators like Energy Corporation of America. I cross-posted this on Daily Kos and it made the recommended list there, a first for me.
- Unknown unknowns. The disturbing case of Vernal Utah – the story of mysterious public health issues in a Utah town where drilling has been the primary industry for the last 50 years. This one became a source of conflict on the town’s Facebook page.
- How to find out who owns the mineral rights to your land – A practical guide to land l ownership and how to determine mineral rights for your surface property. This is important information, as many readers along the Beartooth Front have to deal with split estates.
- Mortgage lenders increasingly worried about fracking – Documentation of how lenders increasingly consider properties close to fracking sites as high risk, which affects not only their willingness to lend, but also property values and the long-term economic outlook for communities impacted by oil and gas drilling.
It’s here! The Preserve the Beartooth Front video – The culmination of two months of planning and fundraising, this post marked the pubic release of a locally-produced video about the need for local action to preserve Beartooth Front communities. Readers chipped in over $8,000 to produce the video, which has now received thousands of views over at my Vimeo site, where you can also find videos of a number of public meetings.
- What’s wrong with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation – An overview of the BOGC, the primary permitting agency for oil and gas in Montana, and how it is weighted against landowners in theory and practice. This topic became important when the BOGC refused to listen to testimony from local landowners before granting a permit in Belfry, and Northern Plains Resource Council filed suit to force them to grant a hearing.
- Action update. Tell the DNC about illegal water use in Belfry – In June, an ECA contractor was caught by neighbors illegally taking water from a gravel pit. They notified the Montana Department of Naturatl Resource Conservation (DNRC), as did dozens of readers. The DNC shut them down two days later.
- Comments on the ECA presentation at Carbon County Commission, 9/8/14. Part 1 – In September the Carbon County Commissioners invited Energy Corporation of America to present at one of their meetings. Local residents packed the meeting. The video of the meeting anc commentary got lots of passalong readership.
- Update. Fracking causes earthquakes (with video) – Fracking and earthquakes is a topic that gets people excited, but it’s surprising to me that there’s still a controversy about it. It’s not really fracking itself that causes earthquakes, but injection wells associated with fracking, and there can be no rational dispute about it at this point.
- Who pays for instructure? You do. The case of Sydney Montana – When oil and gas drilling expands rapidly, the unreimbursed cost to local communities for roads, public safety, sewage, education, health care, and other services can be very high. Sidney is a great example, and those who pay are not at all the people who benefit from the boom.
One feature of the site that has been particularly popular is the series that highlights the personal stories of people all over North America whose lives have been changed, often permanently, by oil and gas drilling. The stories below have attracted the most readers, and you can find links to all the stories here.
- – A broken pipeline dumped 950,000 gallons of produced water onto a farm, requiring years of cleanup and an ongoing battle with the state agencies with responsibility for cleanup.
- Dustin Bergsing, Edgar Montana – The tragic story of the death of a Carbon County oil worker in the Bakken and subsequent cover up by the oil company that employed him.
- Michelle Thomas Williston, North Dakota – A young office worker is forced to work two jobs to keep up with rising prices in Williston, and eventually has to move back in with her grandmother in Bainville, Montana, commuting through oilfield traffic to get to work.
- The Mogen Family, Douglas, Wyoming – A family that moved to Wyoming to find a healthy environment for raising two children had their lives upended by a well blowout that poisoned the air and made their children sick. The experience turned Kristi Mogen into an environmental activist.
- Deb Thomas, Clark, Wyoming – A fourth generation Red Lodge native moves with her family to a property on a creek on the Wyoming side of the Beartooth Front. Soon afterward four gas wells appeared near her house. A well blowout, followed by years of battling with Wyoming officials, turned her into a professional activist for citizen rights.
- Helen Slottje, Ithaca, New York – The winner of the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize developed the legal arguments that enabled 170 New York towns to ban fracking, and evenutally led to a ban on fracking in New York state.
- John Fenton, Pavillion, Wyoming – After groundwater contamination forced John and dozens of residents of Pavillion to get all their water from plastic cisterns, he became a global activist fighting for citizen protections from oil and gas drilling.
- Bob and Lisa Parr, Wise County, Texas – Very few legal cases against oil and gas companies ever go to court, but, after their air was poisoned by drilling near their home and their family got very sick, the Parrs won a $2.9 million judgment against the operator who drilled the wells.
- Jaime Frederick, Coitsville, Ohio – A first person account of the devastating personal health impact of living near wells.
There’s a lot of fight left. I’ll be around for awhile.