Recent estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey indicate that the Bakken Shale - the oil-rich geological formation that underlies much of North Dakota and reaches into Montana - contains far more oil than previously thought. The USGS now believes the Bakken contains twice as much oil, and three times as much natural gas, as their previous estimates.
The oil fields of Montana's Bakken Shale have led to many new jobs for the region. But critics of the oil and gas industry say that a culture of maximizing production and minimizing costs has led to unnecessary oil field accidents. The recent death of a 23-year-old roughneck from a crush injury illustrates the problem.
An explosion and fire at an oil processing facility in eastern Montana has injured three workers, at least two of whom were taken to a local hospital. The facility is in Wibaux, near the North Dakota border and at the eastern edge of the Bakken Shale crude oil formation. The facility takes slop oil, a waste material from the oil production process, and converts it into pipeline-grade crude oil.
Authorities in Teton County, Montana intend to step up enforcement of stop sign laws at an intersection that has seen more than its share of serious accidents recently. The County Sheriff and County Attorney have spoken out recently about their frustration at drivers ignoring the stop sign that controls the intersection of U.S. Highway 89 and a secondary highway. The Sheriff says he is going to increase patrols at the intersection and that drivers who make no attempt to stop will face serious charges.
For years now, some insurance companies have been lobbying for what they call tort reform -- restrictive laws designed to make it harder for injured victims to recover compensation in a civil lawsuit. The field in which they have been most successful in erecting hurdles to recovery is probably that of medical malpractice. In state after state, legislatures have enacted laws restricting the ability of patients to recover for medical professional negligence.
Last year the Montana Legislature enacted several tough laws intended to save lives by deterring drunk driving in the state. The laws included a no-nonsense 24/7 monitoring program, increased penalties and greater police authority. Unfortunately, in late August the Montana Department of Transportation released some disheartening news: fatalities in alcohol-related car accidents have increased this year over the same time last year.