Published January 24 2012
Forum editorial: Startling Oil Patch numbersThe stories coming out of North Dakota’s Oil Patch – anecdotal and confirmed – make more sense when placed in the context of the startling statistics associated with the boom. Some of the numbers are so mind-boggling, they not only speak for themselves, but they also provide troubling substance to the stories. For example:
- It takes up to 2,200 semi loads of water (and that’s just the water needs) for each well; there are about 260 wells in progress right now.
- Sixty percent of the increase in injury and fatality traffic accidents involved semis.
- Traffic back-ups for as much as a mile through Oil Patch cities or at rural intersections have become common.
- Rent in Williston is $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to $3,400 for a three-bedroom. Escalating rents and other costs are forcing longtime residents, particularly people on fixed incomes, to leave.
- Every camper hookup in the area is being used. On Jan. 1, the Williston Walmart had 148 overnight campers in the parking lot.
E The Williams County Jail has increased bookings by 150 percent, and registered a 100 percent increase in inmate population.
- The Williams County Sheriff’s Department has doubled its staff and still is struggling to keep up with an increase in criminal activities ranging from domestic abuse to drug use and trafficking to organized prostitution to bar fights.
- Stressed law enforcement no longer participates in outreach programs with schools and community organizations.
- The pattern of driving-under- the-influence arrests has shifted to an all-day problem, beginning as early as 10 a.m. when oil workers change shifts.
- Trinity Hospital in Minot has hired 115 nurses from the Philippines to handle the increase in demand for health care services.
- Undocumented workers are flocking to the area, in some cases overwhelming authorities charged with finding and deporting them.
And on and on it goes. The numbers change daily, and not for the better.
Well, say defenders of every aspect of the boom, it’s the free market at work. Give it time and the market will do its magic and everything will be peachy keen. We’re not so sure.
The market is amoral. Without targeted intervention and reasonable regulation, the market will maximize its priorities, which seldom include minimizing the deleterious effects a go-go boom can have on people, communities and cultures.
The troubling trends in oil country cannot be spun away simply because money is being made and government revenues are setting records. The numbers suggest that at the very least, industry should ratchet it down enough for North Dakota’s rural small-town ranching and farming culture to catch up. If the industry won’t do it, a slowdown imposed by regulators should not be off the table.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.