As oil drilling becomes more common on ranches and farmland across the United States and Canada, the impact of that drilling on local roads, rivers and land is making many people furious. Ranchers in South Dakota, for instance, are protesting the 313-mile (504-kilometer) Keystone Pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, down to the gulf coast of Texas. The ranchers say that oil company trucks are running roughshod over their land, trespassing and posing environmental threats to their ranches. They have some cause to be worried; residents near Parachute, Colo., claim oil companies have carelessly left open waste pits along their roads and rivers, the result of a 1.2 million-gallon (4.5 million-liter) drilling mud spill that occurred in early 2008 [source: Lofholm].
Other ranchers contend that oil tanker trucks bring weeds in on their trucks, a clear violation, for example, of a Montana law that requires oil companies to protect ranch land when performing drilling operations [source: Schmidt]. Weeds aren't the only problem associated with oil tanker trucks. Ranchers have also worried about the clouds of dust that tanker trucks kick up as they drive down country roads, saying that the dust is causing "cattle pneumonia" among their livestock or mechanical problems with their equipment.
Tanker trucks also tremendously strain area roads that were built to handle much lighter traffic. Repair crews from Dunn County, North Dakota, for example, have watched road repair expenses skyrocket as oil company traffic has increased. Even school buses are taking a hit, spending more time in the shop after hitting potholes and driving over bumpy, uneven roads. The county's repair crews simply can't keep up, as limited budgets and man-power curtail their efforts. In some cases, the crews have even placed warning flags along roads that have become dangerous from wear.
Oil companies say they are willing to work with ranchers to resolve some of the issues ranchers have with their operations, spending money to reseed land damaged by drilling rigs and offering a small percentage of royalties to ranchers who don't own their land's mineral rights.
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