The New York Times profiles the men and women – many of them just out of high school – who are migrating to oil boom towns in Montana and North Dakota in search of drilling jobs. Just like in Pennsylvania, communities in the mountain west are rapidly expanding to accommodate drilling rushes powered by hydraulic fracturing.
Less than a year after proms and homecoming games, teenagers like Mr. Sivertson now wake at 4 a.m. to make the three-hour trek to remote oil rigs. They fish busted machinery out of two-mile-deep hydraulic fracturing wells and repair safety devices that keep the wells from rupturing, often working alongside men old enough to be their fathers. Some live at home; others drive back on weekends to eat their mothers’ food, do loads of laundry and go to high school basketball games, still straddling the blurred border between childhood and adulthood.
Just as gold rushes and silver booms once brought opera houses and armies of prospectors to rugged corners of the West, today’s headlong race for oil and gas is reshaping staid communities in the northern Plains, bringing once untold floods of cash and job prospects, but also deep anxieties about crime, growth and a future newly vulnerable to cycles of boom and bust.
How is this boom pattern playing out in Pennsylvania? Our recent multimedia project, BoomTown, tried to answer that question.