Re: Happy Feder's On the Edge Over the Front:
Allow me to condense "On the Edge Over the Front" to a faster read: Not in my backyard.
You're welcome. And if the existence of Feder's god hinges on the preservation of a particular stretch of scenery, well, there's always paganism.
-- Jim Moore
Panama City, Florida
It may surprise the author to find out that most people that remain involved in the domestic oil and gas exploration and production industry are both political conservatives and environmental conservationists. They are also free market capitalists, the costs and benefits of being such include compensating affected landowners and subsurface mineral owners with payments up front and out of the well production.
I would suggest that Mr. Feder would be decidedly un-Happy if he were to find himself unable to heat his home with natural gas, propane or electricity in a winter in the future. I know I would be. In part because large expanses of the West are excluded from exploration, domestic natural gas production is in a flat-to-declining state. Exploration and production of natural gas is a low impact operation. The "80 foot drilling towers" (we call 'em drilling rigs) are only present for the time it takes to drill and complete the well. They are truck portable and are moved off as soon as the work is done. What is left behind is a much shorter (3 to 15 feet tall) assembly of valves that controls the gas flowing from the well, a tank or two for produced liquids and a small diameter pipeline to send the natural gas toward the consumer's electrical generator or home furnace. All of the production equipment on the well pad is usually painted ("BLM beige" or an alternate required color) to blend in with the surroundings as much as possible.
As for estimates of gas reserves in the Front area, unfortunately they cannot be known without drilling. By locking this area away, the country may be missing out on the estimated small volume of gas or something much larger. That's something to remember this winter as the temperature inside your house drops a degree or two, the furnace automatically kicks on and the house is filled with warmth. That natural gas has to come from somewhere.
-- D. Scott Atkinson
Mr. Feder's article is so wrong, so bad. I live in Calgary Canada and literally dozens of times a year drive through the Canadian side of the Montana Front. I have also driven the Montana side. The only thing Feder is correct about is the beauty of the area.
Feder's suggestion that "...dozens of 80 foot drilling towers with blinking lights, a maze of roads scratched through the forests, a web of pipelines and huge service roads..." will be disruptive, or even visible, is wrong, nuts, impossible and crazy.
Point by point:
The "dozens of drilling towers" will be scattered over tens, hundreds, even thousands of square miles. Unless you are within a mile, they are effectively invisible.
"Blinking lights"? Oh my God, the horror. Likewise invisible unless you're next to them. Mostly, they do not blink. Blinking lights are hard to work under. The reason the rigs have lights is so airplanes won't fly into them and because they are expensive and get worked 24 hours a day. An Alberta crew could be in and out, well drilled, done and ready to tie-in in a few weeks. What's going to take you Americans so long? For energy security you can't give up the view for few weeks?
Feder says its only a few days worth of gas and a minimal return. Who made him an expert? The guys taking the cash risks say there's money it, some twerp from Oregon writes an insulting article and insinuates there ain't. Who ya gonna believe?
"A maze of roads -- huge service roads." Complete nonsense. The roads are mostly there already. Is Feder a city boy? The entire west is already a maze of roads. I can drive from here to south Montana through a "maze" of gravel, logging and ranch roads already, including a few high mountain border crossers. Any farmer, rancher or hunter could, and the gas boys can as well.
"A web of pipelines." Underground. Invisible. There is a pipeline going south from Longview, Alberta, and into the U.S. I believe its 36 inches or larger, and was either installed or twinned in the last five years. I watched them lay it. The Willow valley country south of Longview is exactly like the country Feder writes of. The photograph at the top of your page could be the same valley. I challenge Feder to come up and even find that pipeline over much of its route. There are certainly sections where brush or forest was cut, and they are visible. After a very few years, and not a "lifetime," they are indistinguishable from the rest of the landscape.
Feder's link and reference to the "sweetening plant" photo are particularly obnoxious. The picture is a distorted aerial photo completely and falsely unrepresentative of what the thing looks like from the ground. The plants needed in Montana simply will not look bad. Even if they look horrible they will also be effectively invisible beyond few miles. The plants can be placed in towns and the sour gas piped to them.
"Bottom Feeder"? Feder writes offensively about the lessees, and the aims, motives and prospects of the drillers. What is your editorial staff doing letting insulting language like that out? What did these people ever do to you? They are simply small businessmen. How did they get to be called bottom feeders by a conservative magazine?
There is always a risk of environmental damage. It seems to me a conservative would say the market ought to deal with that in the usual fashion and that letting the BLM decide anything is the mad alternative.
Up here in Canada we constantly have enviros rant about drilling in our Montana Front equivalent. As far as I can see, and I can see far, when I go to the Porcupine Hills, the Whaleback, Waterton, Montana, I see no enviros. They're all back home in their Oregon and New York and Calgary condos dreaming up new ways to screw up business life.
My name is Fred Zinkhoefer and I have no connection whatever to the people proposing the drilling or owning the leases.
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