Struggles faced by one Montana community in the Bakken shale

The Fall 2012 edition of the Montana Policy Review focuses on community responses to energy development. Among other topics, it discusses the challenges facing Sidney, Montana.

Sidney, with a population of 5,191 in 2010, is in eastern Montana. Some of the changes it has seen with the Bakken boom:

  • The garbage rate has more than doubled.
  • The crime rate has almost doubled.
  • In one day, the volunteer fire department responded to three fires before noon.
  • $55 million is needed for infrastructure, including a new waste lagoon and water and sewer mains.
  • In this all volunteer city, city council meetings have gone from twice a month to four or five per month. The mayor states that the volunteer citizens for the fire department, variance board, and more are "all stressed out."
  • In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 101 new students on the first day of school, an additional 184 added during the school year between September and May, and 150 who left after only a short stay. Twenty percent of incoming students need special education services. Others need extra academic assistance due to learning gaps that prevent them from achieving grade level, due to prior multiple school moves.
  • The school district has worker shortages because it cannot compete with the salaries in the oil industry, and many workers cannot even find affordable housing.

Sidney is not receiving enough revenue from the oil industry to take care of all of its needs. The oil and gas industry does bring profits to some, but in its wake there are many who suffer, including small communities that cannot absorb the impacts.

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