The Pros and Cons of an Oil Boom

by Taylor Viydo, 
To see the effects of the oil and gas boom in the Southern Powder River Basin, look no further than Glenrock, Wyoming.  
“With the increase of oil production, [companies] are certainly paying more taxes,” says Converse County Commissioner Mike Colling. He estimates that tax revenue to be around $177 million.
“We’re able to give pay raises, we’re able to keep our good employees,” says Colling of the increased revenue. He adds that Converse County, like other areas benefiting from energy production, have been able to contribute to their rainy day funds. “We’ve been able to put a large amount in savings for future projects,” he says.  
In addition to working for the County, Colling also owns Glenrock’s Hotel Higgins with his wife Judi. With the influx of oil field workers into the County, Judi says business has been good. “What we have noticed is a steady increase in occupancy,” she says. “We’re almost totally filled every night.”  

The Hotel Higgins in Glenrock.
At the same time, workers looking to rent property instead of living in a hotel have produced somewhat of an issue. Colling describes the housing situation as one partial downside of the boom. “Rental costs have gone up. People are paying more for rent now than they did a year or two ago,” he says. “But it’s not so good for people that are not in the oil business or are on fixed incomes.”  
For example, Colling says there is less incentive for recent college grads looking for work in other industries to come to Converse County. “Let’s say a school teacher wants to rent a house - a young student out of college. They are paying quite bit more for rent than they would have a couple of years ago.”  

Colling says road quality has become an issue since the boom began.
An increase in drilling activity also means an influx of drivers in the county. All of that wear and tear on the roads adds up says Colling. “Keeping up with the roads, repairs, and damage on the roads is a tremendous task,” he says. “I think [the County] budgeted somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million just this year for road repairs.”  
However, in the face of looming budget cuts due to low natural gas prices, one could say high rents and damaged roads are welcome burdens. “It’s good that we are not in a real bind like some counties, and that’s nice. We are sitting quite well.”