Baucus to President Obama: Urgent Action Needed to Support Jobs in Nations Most Dynamic Economic Development Region
Senator Calls to Action: We must rewrite the cycle of boom and bust in the Bakken
Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012
(Washington, D.C.) - Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus is urging President Obama to unleash every appropriate federal resource to maximize the good-paying jobs available in the Bakken region. In a letter to the President sent today, Baucus asks for a multi-agency approach to more efficiently address the urgent infrastructure needs associated with the oil and gas boom in Eastern Montana.
"At a time when the entire nation is asking leaders to help spur job creation, we must not lose this important opportunity to support one of the most dynamic areas for job growth in the country," Baucus wrote. "The history of boom and bust can be rewritten, only if we provide the appropriate infrastructure to support long term jobs and the energy economy our nation both craves and needs for future security.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for the region and the country that requires a thoughtful, targeted and urgent response. Supporting economic growth in the Bakken region is not only a pressing issue for Montanans, but it is an urgent issue of national interest."
Baucus asked the President to make good on his State of the Union pledge to promote homegrown, American energy by supporting the dynamic economic development potential in Eastern Montana. He pointed out that even though there are thousands of jobs available in the Bakken, residents in some remote communities have inefficient barriers to federal resources. For example, Culbertson residents would have to drive five hours to the nearest USDA Rural Development office in Billings to access programs to assist with rural business and infrastructure. Those residents would also have to drive 8 hours to Helena to access the nearest Economic Development Agency office or Housing and Urban Development office.
"A temporary, multi-agency office in this area could go a long way towards providing timely assistance and information. I ask you to find ways to meet the unique needs of this job-creating economic opportunity and hope you will finally respond to the chorus of voices asking for the federal government to make it easier for local businesses and communities thrive by making it easier for local folks to navigate and access existing federal programs to finance infrastructure and economic growth," Baucus wrote.
What Montanans are saying about Baucus' call for an "all hands on deck" approach to economic development in the Bakken and read more online HERE:
"We are facing a tsunami of a different sort in small towns across Eastern Montana because of the influx of oil companies and the workforce needed to develop natural resources here. Without having adequate warning the communities are struggling to provide services that we never imagined while watching our city streets and county roads demolished before our eyes. It is not feasible for us to keep up without some federal assistance," said Glendive Mayor Jerry Jimison. "We appreciate Max listening to our concerns and urging the President to recognize that we must not let the opportunity to create thousands of good paying jobs and a chance to let us be independent of foreign oil slip away for lack of helping us provide infrastructure."
Culbertson School Board Chairman, Paul Finnicum and local business owner, says the influx of oilfield workers has not been matched by an influx in teachers or affordable housing. "Max has hit the nail on the head with this one. The population of our community and surrounding area has nearly doubled over the past year resulting in alarming growth at our schools while stretching our water and sewage delivery systems to near maximum capacity. While there is a major influx of higher paying jobs in oil fields, the schools, town and county have not been as fortunate in filling vacant positions including everything from teachers to custodial and maintenance workers. The improvements that are needed to upgrade our infrastructure currently falls on the backs of local tax payers, many of whom share nothing but the inflation of the local economy busting at its seems."
Chief Frank DiFonzo who has served as Sidney's police chief since 1981 says law enforcement is seeing a dramatic increase in offenses and a dire housing crisis which is creating a host of safety and community well-being issues. "Sidney's dramatic population increase has led to a dramatic increase in traffic issues related to the heavy flow of oil field related vehicles passing through our community each day. In addition, the housing crisis has led to people living in camper trailers, cars and any sort of shelter they can find and many of the new residents are families with young children. We have seen a double digit increase in overall crime in the last year and I believe we need to add as many as 4 to 5 new officers to his department within the next 2-3 years. In conjunction with Max's leadership, we look forward to working together to find solutions for the well-being of our communities."
Jason Rittal, Executive Director of the Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation which serves Prairie, Dawson, Wibaux, Fallon and Carter counties, says his region is in a great position to capitalize on the much needed growth, but resources to support that growth are scarce. "The energy development in western North Dakota and eastern Montana is pressing the available infrastructure in the region to capacity. We trust Max's clout and seniority will help elevate this important issue for us. With appropriate resources and planning, this economic development opportunity can provide thousands of jobs for Americans and long term economic stability in the region. "
Text of Letter to President follows and is available ONLINE HERE:
January 31, 2012
The Honorable President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I applaud you for highlighting in your State of the Union Address that "we need to promote homegrown, American energy." As the United States faces this critical juncture in our energy economy, it's important that we work together on new ways to support a sustained path to steer our country toward energy independence. We also must work toward a long term plan for supporting energy jobs here at home. In Montana, the booming oilfields in the Bakken Formation are providing a multitude of opportunities as well as challenges.
The oil boom in the Bakken is fueling tens of thousands of jobs to the point where recent estimates show rural America is currently facing an actual labor shortage of around 18,000 jobs. At a time when the entire nation is asking leaders to help spur job creation, we must not lose this important opportunity to support one of the most dynamic areas for job growth in the country.
Our communities in Eastern Montana have a rich agriculture heritage that is now shifting to accommodate "man camps" that provide short term housing for oil field workers. The history of boom and bust can be rewritten, only if we provide the appropriate infrastructure to support long term jobs and the energy economy our nation both craves and needs for future security.
The communities of Eastern Montana desperately need clean water, power, roads, sewage treatment, medical services and law enforcement.
Businesses here need access to existing loan programs that will help them meet community and economic needs.
Individuals need information about federal services and programs to help them deal with a variety of issues. Residents are being crowded out of affordable housing, stuck in traffic jams, and exposed to increasing crime that comes with rapid population growth. Workers and their families need places to live, communities need to be safe and given the tools to meet infrastructure needs and businesses deserve to be given the tools to succeed while eliminating unnecessary federal process and regulation.
In many cases, there are existing federal programs that could potentially help address these needs but the nearest federal office or agency is hundreds of miles away. For example, Culbertson residents would have to drive five hours to the nearest USDA Rural Development office in Billings to access programs to assist with rural business and infrastructure. Those residents would also have to drive 8 hours to Helena to access the nearest Economic Development Agency office or Housing and Urban Development office. A temporary, multi-agency office in this area could go a long way towards providing timely assistance and information.
I encourage you to unleash every appropriate resource to maximize the opportunity to improve both the economics and security of America by responding to the urgent needs associated with the oil and gas boom in the region which includes Eastern Montana. The Bakken and Three Forks geologic formations hold tremendous potential to create jobs while improving both our national security and energy independence. You have the power to initiate a multi-agency approach that could reduce regulation, standardize federal program applications, leverage local resources and technical assistance and facilitate economic and job growth through streamlined oversight and access to existing programs.
This is a tremendous opportunity for the region and the country that requires a thoughtful, targeted and urgent response. Supporting economic growth in the Bakken region is not only a pressing issue for Montanans, but it is an urgent issue of national interest. Your Administration can help buttress this growth and ensure that its challenges don't undercut its blessings.
I ask you to find ways to meet the unique needs of this job-creating economic opportunity and hope you will finally respond to the chorus of voices asking for the federal government to make it easier for local businesses and communities thrive by making it easier for local folks to navigate and access existing federal programs to finance infrastructure and economic growth. I encourage you to consider mobilizing your newly created White House Rural Council to focus on policy initiatives to help address the infrastructure and economic development needs I outlined above. Furthermore, I ask you to find as many ways as possible to encourage and enable job creation in this region by decreasing regulation, streamlining applications and making assistance and information locally available. I look forward to working together toward a solution to support jobs and address these economic development challenges expeditiously.
U.S. Senator, Montana
(end letter text)
Contact: Kate Downen 406-224-5056/Kathy Weber 406-329-7980/Jennifer Donohue 202-224-2651
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