Oil Pain Spreads Beyond Permian to Small Towns Across America

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(Bloomberg) — The oil market turmoil sparked by Saudi Arabia and Russia is threatening U.S. jobs even in Cut Bank, Montana, and Magnolia, Arkansas — relatively obscure communities in the world of energy.

In such places, mom-and-pop outfits run so-called stripper wells, which generate no more than 15 barrels a day. After crude’s crash in 2014, they were forced to reduce jobs and shrink costs just to keep afloat. Now, as prices plunge to 18-year lows, they’re doing it again, but this time there’s little left to cut, according to Darlene Wallace, who heads Columbus Oil Co. in Oklahoma, the operator of 21 wells.

“Most of us in 2015 cut back severely, and have continued to in the last five years,” said Wallace, who is also the chairman of the National Stripper Well Association, by telephone. “Many of us have been in the business and have seen more than one shock like this. But none of us dreamed it would fall so far. We now have lots of hard decisions to make.”

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