Monday, December 31, 2007

There's oil in them thar plains . . .

Some of Western North Dakota's towns are booming these days due to oil exploration, according to this story in the New York Times. Almost 200 new wells have been drilled there in the past year. Towns like Stanley and Killdeer that were previously on the verge of drying up and blowing away (perhaps literally, as well as figuratively, out on those plains) are now seeing population stabilization, even growth. But locals have mixed feelings about the turn of events. John Warburg, pictured above on his farm, says: It seems like God flew over this country, and a dart landed on Granddad’s homestead.” But he also laments the change:
I hope the place won’t change, but it probably will ... I have thought about this a lot. I guess what I hope is that I don’t change.
Ken G. Halvorson, the eight-term county sheriff and coroner is more skeptical, indeed outright negative: “We’re going to get nothing out of this except a headache and a heartache.” The skepticism stems not only from a concern about loss of a way of life and the environment, but also because another nearby city suffered in an earlier "oil boom." In the early 1980s, when oil prices were on the rise, nearby Williston invested $20 million in infrastructure to facilitate the city's growth, which never came. So, the oil's presence has been known for some time, but it's taken the spike in oil prices to renew interest and investment in this onshore exploration. For better or worse, that has put towns like Stanley and Killdeer back on the map.

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