Bakken Oil Boom Straining Rural Communities

Joe Eaton reports from Bainville, Montana, which is suffering the effects of the Bakken oil boom, although the majority of the Bakken wells, and its corresponding tax revenue, are in North Dakota.
July 12, 2014, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"At the edge of a farmer's wheat field outside the prairie town of Bainville, Montana, Justin and Mandy Tolbert's 36-foot camper sat in a rented lot," reports Eaton. "For more than 20 months, the Tolberts lived in the camper with their six children, ages 5 to 12, and Justin's adult cousin."

That sounds like a fairly typical tale fo pverty in America, except that the Tolbert's are not poor: "Justin makes more than $200,000 a year as an oil pipeline welder in the Bakken oil field. The family owns a two-story home with an in-ground pool in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They drive a $50,000 four-wheel-drive van."

Joe Eaton cites the Tolberts as an anecdote of growing pains of the communities on the fringes of the shale oil boom. "Although only a small fraction of Bakken wells are in Montana, where oil production peaked in 2006, nearby oil industry development and an influx of workers have maxed out the town's water system, destroyed roads, and introduced drugs and violent crimes unheard of by generations of farmers and ranchers."

Eaton also discusses the difficulties towns like Bainville are having in hiring public sector employees, maintaining roads, keeping housing in the price range of teachers, and responding to increasing crime.

Full Story:
Published on Friday, July 11, 2014 in National Geographic
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