The Latest Yellowstone River Oil Spill Should Be A Wake-Up Call For Montana


My friend Deia Schlosberg ends her award-winning fracking documentary, Backyard, with a simple question: "What did you do, once you knew?"

The question is actually a quote from a Drew Dellinger poem and serves as a call to action in the face of the vast number of environmental threats our planet currently faces. It feels, however, particularly relevant for Montana as I write this today.

Because just a few days ago the second significant oil spill in the Yellowstone River in the last four years occurred -- yet another environmental hardship forced on Montanans in the name of profits for the mineral extraction industry. This dangerous process of fracking leaves us with many other questions to consider. When will the next disaster strike? Where? How bad? And at what cost to our health, our communities, our property values, and our environment?

It's time to speak up, Montana. How many more of our cities and rivers must be sacrificed in the name of profits for a few--most of whom live far, far away from the realities of oil and gas development? How many more lies will we buy into concerning energy independence, widespread profits, great jobs for locals, and safe "cutting edge" technology?

We know better. And we, despite the harm already suffered by our citizens, wildlife, and wild landscapes, have an opportunity that our friends in places like Wyoming, Colorado, and North Dakota no longer have. We have a chance - before expansive oil and gas exploration further spreads across our state - to demand access to the information we need to make informed decisions about whether we want to let fracking into the communities where we live, work, and recreate.

The State of New York decided just over a month ago that the risks of fracking outweigh the benefits. They decided that healthy communities and a healthy environment trump industry profits. In the wake of New York's landmark decision to ban fracking, it's time for Montana to take a hard look and decide what we want our future to look like.

Last night, we screened Backyard in front of a packed house in Bozeman. At the end of the film, when the question "What did you do, once you knew?" came across the screen, you could hear a pin drop. People are worried. People are scared. People are angry.

The relevant question now is:

Now that we know, what will we do?