With explosive population growth, a 366 percent increase in new building values and rents at $2,400 per month and rising, Williston, N.D., is ground zero for the modern oil boom made possible by fracking. Tucked in the northwestern corner of the state, the town is exploding with new construction but still cannot build fast enough to keep thousands from living in RVs or from sleeping in their cars. The impact is amplified in the nearby Fort Berthold Reservation, where Native American landowners face an additional challenge: alleged exploitation as speculators buy property cheap and sell for huge profits.
With the backdrop of the booming oil industry in North Dakota, the governor’s race is taking center stage. Democratic contender Ryan Taylor, a state rep, is pushing for more regulation and oversight of the oil industry. But he faces a difficult fight to beat the Republican incumbent, Gov. Jack Dalrymple. This race is an example of political battles across the country on oversight and regulation for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals to extract once-inaccessible oil reserves by fracturing fissures in rock formations deep underground. Fracking means jobs and wealth in the oil boom town of Williston, N. D., which sits on the enormous Bakken shale deposit. But the impact on the environment is evident. Take natural gas, a byproduct of oil extraction. While some companies capture this methane-rich gas and send it through pipelines to be processed, some oil companies “flare” it off as waste, igniting it to burn it away. North Dakota is a leader in gas flaring, which critics say causes pollution and wastes an energy resource.