Category Archives: Bakken

Documentary film on Bakken life debuts Sunday in Billings

The documentary film “Makoshika,” about life in the Bakken oil fields, will have its Billings premiere this Sunday at 7pm at the Babcock Theater, and will also be shown at the Art House Pub and Theater on March 4-6 and 9-10.

The 50-minute documentary is a culmination of the High Plains Heritage Project, which we first wrote about 18 months ago, when four Montana journalists set off for the Bakken to do in depth coverage of the past, present and future of the region.

Examining both the present boom and those since passed, “Makoshika” alternates between intimate first person narratives and historical commentary, asking viewers to look at the present through the lens of history.

With mild spring weather forecast for Billings this weekend, we recommend the journey.

Click to read more about the film, view the trailer, and order tickets for Sunday’s showing. Continue reading

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This is Life with Lisa Ling: Filthy Rich (video)

I’ve been accumulating some information about the Bakken, so this is the first of a few posts on the subject. The posts will have more to do with the impacts of an oil society on communities rather than specific oil and gas issues.

Lisa Ling is a CNN reporter who hosts This is Life, a series of video-magazine stories that take her on a “gritty, breathtaking journey to the far corners of America.” One episode is entitled “Filthy Rich,” and it deals with the life of women in the Bakken.

The first part of her story chronicles the lives of some of the few women who have been brave enough to come to Williston to seek their fortunes. Their stories are inspiring. They are tough. They learn to deal with intolerable housing, tremendous social pressure and numbing isolation, and, for the few who can stick it out, they are able to find high-paying jobs in service industries, in the oil fields, and in transport.

But the second half of the episode deals with the flip side of the stories of those strong women, and it is frightening. The trafficking industry is a substantial part of life around the oilfields, and the stories of who they are and how they got to the Bakken will make you angry.

Click to watch the episode. Continue reading

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When North Dakota needed a new pipeline, they turned to the company that tainted Glendive’s water supply

Sometimes the news just makes you shake your head.

You probably remember Bridger Pipeline, LLC. They’re the company that operated the Poplar Pipeline. That’s the one that ruptured last January, sending 40,000 gallons of Bakken crude into the Yellowstone River, tainting Glendive’s water supply.

So when the North Dakota Public Service Commission needed a company to build a new pipeline, a key piece of infrastructure that will stretch 15 mines across Billings and Stark Counties, one that will transport 125,000 barrels per day and connect to an existing pipeline leading to Baker, Montana, who do you think they chose?

You already know the answer. Click to read more.

Continue reading

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A personal story: Dennis Johnsrud, Williston, ND

Today’s post is one of a series of personal stories on this site about how the shale oil and gas boom has affected the lives of the people in the communities that are touched by drilling.

The first thing Dennis Johnsrud hears anytime a pipeline company wants to site a line on his property is that they are there to ‘work with the farmers.’

“It’s a red flag to me now,” Johnsrud says on a fair-weather Thursday afternoon in a wheat full of golden stubble. “The last 10 guys said that, and it never happened.”

There is a trail of broken promises tracking through Johnsrud’s fields. He says he’s telling his story because, if farmers won’t speak up, the story will only be told by the other side, and no one will realize the realities farmers are facing in an economy that is increasingly harsh and unforgiving to the families who have shepherded this land for generations.

Click to read more of Johnrud’s story, which reminds us that Montana, even more than North Dakota, provides few protections for private ownership rights against the oil and gas companies. The need for local landowners to set regulations for how drilling is done on their properties is greater than ever. Continue reading

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Silvertip landowners appeal to Montana Supreme Court

“The ability of neighboring landowners to unilaterally strip us of our right to protect our properties will remain an obstacle to local control throughout Montana unless the state Supreme Court decides this important issue.” Continue reading

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Learning opportunity: Webinar on challenges of life in the Bakken, July 23

Most of us will never visit the Bakken. We read the news stories, hear the reports of spills and train explosions and lives changed forever, and scratch our heads as oil executives tell us that fracking is essential to a … Continue reading

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Salt water spills require local regulation to protect farmers and ranchers

Farmers and ranchers in the Bakken have had an uneasy peace with the oil industry since the fracking boom started. Many receive royalty payments based on their ownership of the minerals under their land, and so they have been relatively … Continue reading

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Checking in on the price of gas, oil, and declining rig counts

Locally, landowners trying to manage the impact of the boom-and-bust oil industry on their communities remain hard at work. They seek to regulate oil and gas drilling locally to protect not only their land and water, but the generations-old way of life in their communities. Continue reading

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Montana legislature to eastern Montana: your infrastructure, your problem

The Montana legislature has failed once again to pass a bill that would support the increased infrastructure needs caused by oil and gas drilling in eastern Montana. As the semi-annual legislative session closed this week, two bills that would have … Continue reading

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Smithsonian Channel’s “Boomtowners” chronicles life in the Bakken (video)

Interesting viewing today, courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel, which has developed a multi-part series on life in the Bakken. From the web site: “Boomtowners” plunges into a modern-day “gold rush” that’s attracting thousands of people from all over the country … Continue reading

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