Around 150 people are expected to attend the Black Hills Bakken Conference here in Spearfish today and tomorrow. I'd be interested in attending as well to hear all the tarry-eyed oil-boom boosters tickle our fantasies of petro-wealth and asking if anyone is worried about the potential erosion of education and democracy.
However, I can't make it, because (a) I have to work, and (b) I wouldn't pay $500 to sit and chat with people. 150 people at $500 a head... that's $75,000. When I was treasurer of the South Dakota Speech Communication Association, we were able to run our annual convention for a similar number of attendees at fancy-schmancy places like Cedar Shores for under $4000. The Black Hills Bakken Conference has more guest speakers than we did, but I'm thinking somebody's making some money.
Also unlikely to be able to cover the $500 registration fee: North Dakota trailer park residents being evicted by developers to make way for oilpatch worker housing:
Forced evictions, of local residents from their mobile homes in the New Town area, to provide housing for predominately out-of-state oil workers has reached a new low. On Monday, April 16th, Four Native American residents of the Prairie Winds Mobile Home Park, including a 9-year old child, were forced to leave their home when landlord, Leroy Olsen, removed Heather Youngbird and Crystal Deegan's front door. Olsen then cut the electricity and turned off the propane to the home, and told them they had to leave their home immediately.
...Residents of 45 trailers have until August 31st to move after the mobile home park was sold with plans to develop it to house oil workers. Future Housing LLC bought the property and plans to construct housing for employees of United Prairie Cooperative, formerly Cenex of New Town.
John Reese, the CEO and general manager of United Prairie Cooperative and agent for Future Housing LLC, has said the company is trying to work with the residents. Initially, the eviction deadline was set for May 1, but it's been postponed until Aug. 31.
...Reese said in an interview last month the housing shortage in the area makes it difficult for him to find employees. Available land to develop housing is also difficult to find, he said [Kandi Mossett, "Front Door Stripped off Mobile Home As Forced Evictions Reach New Low in Bakken Oil Fields," press release, Indigenous Environmental Network, 2012.04.18].
I can live with movers and shakers keeping their networking sessions exclusive with high registration fees. But I hope Rep. Charlie Hoffman and his fellow interested parties will talk about the shaken movers who can't afford to live in their homes around the North Dakota oil patch any more. Does new wealth really justify telling an entire class of workers they can no longer live in a community? The displacement of local long-time residents is as much an externality of the oil business as pollution, and we need to discuss how the cold-eyed corporations drilling our earth compensate us for that social cost.