“My name is Pat Wilson. I’m a 67 year old cattle rancher who’s had a somewhat checkered career. I grew up on the family cattle ranch by Bainville, Montana and worked at that through high school. When I went to college I came back every summer and worked on the ranch. Then I went to Grad school and I still came back every summer and worked on the ranch. Along the way I acquired a Masters degree in English. Also, I’m what’s called an ABD. I have everything but a doctorate in American Literature, but I never finished it. Up in the attic of the ranch house there’s a couple hundred pages of an uncompleted doctoral dissertation.”
“The oil boom hit in 2009. It took us a while for our comprehension of the enormity of this oil boom to set in. There’s a lot of really nice people out in the oil patch. And even the middle management types that I get along with admitted they had no idea the Bakken boom was going to turn into what it turned into. The difference between it and everything that’s come before is so immense.”
“Are you familiar with the old saying “a Country is always prepared for the last war?” Like, everybody went into WWII really well prepared for the strategy and tactics and weaponry of WWI. But everything had changed, all the technology had changed. The kind of oil boom that I was familiar with was an oil boom of vertical bore wells spaced every 160 acres and most of them few and far between because they were going for particular salt domes or coral reefs. So I was thinking along those terms.
I had no idea that fracking and directional drilling had changed all that. So I signed a bunch of oil leases without dreaming they would cause the impacts that they cause. Without dreaming that there’d be a 97 percent success rate that would cause something like 8,000 wells to be drilled in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota. I was operating out of information that was 30 years old and the new technology blindsided me.”
“This well is the Mary Wilson, which is only 900 ft from our buildings-well within the threat area for methane and VOC emissions. We have a 600 ft. exclusion zone in our lease, which we now know is far too close. But why doesn’t the state work to preserve the health of its citizens?”
“We know that volatile organic compounds comprise a serious hazard to human and animal health within 2500 feet of the source. Admittedly, the dust from oil field traffic may also have something to do with my chronic cough and my wife’s asthma attacks—which in her case have sometimes been life threatening. But dust has always been a problem in hot, dry eastern Montana, yet we have noticed a marked increase in lung trouble since about 2011. I can’t help but feel that outgassing from all these locations is a factor. And I believe we see an uptick in livestock respiratory problems especially in pastures close to multiple locations.”
“An oil boom is an amazing thing, it starts to take on a life of its own, and it just sort of rolls over a community, its hospitals, its police forces, its schools, its roads, its bridges, it sort of rolls over us like a juggernaut.
You have to make some kind of a stand or else it will roll completely over top of you. At every level… county, state, federal… politics is intertwined with everything about our infrastructure, with everything about our laws, and that all of this stuff bears a little watching.”