BILLINGS, Montana — Even though the oil boom is five hours northeast of here, near the Canadian border, its effects are evident all over Montana's largest city. Hotel rooms are hard to find. Classrooms are swelling with new students. Jobs are plentiful. And when voters in Billings discuss who should be Montana's next governor, the talk inevitably turns to Bakken oil.
The top candidates in Montana's neck-and-neck gubernatorial race both have trotted out ideas for how best to manage drilling in Montana's share of the Bakken rock formation, the oil field that stretches into North Dakota and Canada that has become a hotbed of drilling in recent years because of new rock fracturing technology. Democrat Steve Bullock and Republican Rick Hill have competing plans for how to meet the sudden demand for better roads, new sewers and bigger schools. And, of course, they offer different ideas of how to spend the state's new, oil-infused budget surplus.