STANLEY, N.D.–For a couple of months this summer, Kris Halvorson was Stanley’s chief of police – and his department’s only employee. It was a bad time to be on his own.
As the oil industry work force has expanded in North Dakota and the state has jumped to become the No. 4 oil-producing state in the nation, oilfield-related injuries also have steadily risen since 2004. Though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not require employers to report injuries unless three or more workers are injured or a fatality occurs, Tom Deutscher, OSHA area director, said oilfield-related accidents and fatalities have increased.
WILLISTON, N.D. – The current oil boom has catapulted Williston to the top in average wages paid in North Dakota, above Fargo-West Fargo, Bismarck and Wahpeton. Workers make $49,500 on average here, to Fargo’s $38,000. In oil, the fastestgrowing employment sector, wages average more than $80,000 a year.
Late in 2008, as the rush to develop western North Dakota’s oil accelerated, a 68-year-old McKenzie County man was killed when the vehicle he was driving struck an oil work rig on a county road near Watford City. Few things concern longtime residents more about the oil boom than how it has changed life on the road – life and the fear of death.
ROSS, N.D. – Eli Lopez spruced up a rundown golf cart by his cramped motor home with a new paint job and a working carburetor. Lopez doesn’t play golf, and he has no intention of taking it up during his stint in Ross, population 200 and not a fairway in sight. The cart will come in handy on his return to Mexico, where he heads almost every year at the first approach of an Upper Midwest winter.
TIOGA, N.D. – Kathy Neset saw her dream go bust not long after moving to North Dakota. The New Jersey native with an Ivy League education had ignored her family’s shock over the Midwest move. Indeed, one relative wrote, “I didn’t know anybody really lived in North Dakota.”
NEW TOWN, N.D. – You can’t miss the Rev. Charles Garcia’s food van, the old Ford painted in the green, white and red of the Mexican flag and almost daily suffusing the air of downtown New Town with the aromas of cilantro-spiked pork tortas and steaming beef burritos.