Dakota Access: company under scrutiny over sacred artifacts in oil pipeline's path



The staff has shrunk significantly as of late—the other full-time salesman, two shop hands, and a secretary have left the company or been laid off. The family moved into a spacious new home five years ago, which they have yet to finish paying off. By Jennifer Delony Texas Gov.

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Despite that experience, many welcomed the infusion of capital when Continental Resources Inc, Whiting Petroleum Corp and other oil producers began using horizontal fracking in and to tap the 7.

New roads, schools, community centers and other public facilities began sprouting up, funded largely by oil tax revenue. Now, Continental and others have stopped fracking altogether in North Dakota. Statewide, there are only eight crews fracking new wells for the few companies still willing to pay for the service. Two years ago, there were 45, a peak for the teams that pump water, sand and chemicals deep underground to extract oil and natural gas.

Ohl now spends days hunting for jobs and drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon beer most nights at Cattails, a Williston dive bar with a deer head and Bud Light beer mirrors pinned to the walls.

The slowdown has also inflicted pain on community budgets. Yet the city's sales tax receipts fell 47 percent in March from a year earlier, according to the state treasurer.

Moody's Corp, the credit rating agency, downgraded Williston's general obligation bonds in March to junk status, citing the city's reliance on those sales taxes to repay debt. The state will end free vaccines for children as part of the cuts.

The University of North Dakota System is laying off more than employees. But the fund's principal and interest can't be touched until Tax receipts are down in part because folks like Jon Ritchart are leaving. As the good times rolled, demographers bullishly predicted Williston's population would hit 50, by Since last summer, Williston's population has shrunk 16 percent to 26,, according to the city's wastewater data, which planning officials rely on in the absence of more-precise U.

United Airlines ended a direct flight from Williston to global oil hub Houston in early April. Home Depot Inc will close its Williston store this month. FedEx Corp, facing a steep drop in mail volumes, runs one daily delivery plane to Williston, down from three a year ago. FedEx's move is due in part to the drop in business at Van Assche's three postal services shops. They helped the state's new itinerant oilfield workers send and receive packages, print resumes and business cards, and fax loan and rental contracts.

A roadside advertisement for the stores boasted they could ship guns and heavy freight. Today, they sit eerily quiet. Four years ago, Marcus Jundt opened the Williston Brewing Company, a once-popular lunch spot that now has dozens of empty tables come noon.

A popular restaurateur in Texas, Jundt - who has a framed picture of himself with President George W. Bush at the Williston eatery's entrance - thought he could replicate the success in North Dakota.

Revenue at the restaurant, Jundt said, is down 60 percent from a peak in All of the retail spots and more than half of the apartments sit empty. The developer named the property Renaissance on Main, thinking it would serve as a symbol of western North Dakota's rebirth.

Instead, it has become a monument to the overbuilding that continues in a region quickly losing residents. The apartment units under construction today in Williston will soon join the more than 10, already built since the boom began in , according to a study from THK Associates, an architecture firm. A newly built apartment complex advertises free rent and other amenities in Williston.

Eighteen oil pumpjacks sit on a Hess well pad near Tioga, N. Flares on oil well pads dot the countryside in the Badlands near Killdeer, North Dakota. Advertisements throughout Williston, Watford City and other oil communities offer two or three months of free rent, a far cry from the boom, when rents rivaled those in New York City and San Francisco.

Less than a third of Williston's 2, hotel rooms are full on any given night. Officials expect only 1, to enroll, the same number as at the existing school building.

Funding will come from cash on hand, loans from the state bank and grants from the federal government. Politicians have taken to a common refrain that the oil price drop could actually be a good thing for the Bakken region by offering a chance to recover from the excesses of the boom. A few have benefited by sticking it out while others have fled or collapsed. Staff at the state agency JobService ND who spent the past five years scrambling to help fill jobs now find themselves busy with unemployment insurance applications.

The agency hosted a Williston job fair in early April for jobs. More than 1, applicants showed up. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

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