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January 14, 2015
Sex Trafficking and Murder in North Dakota Fracking Lands
    by Robert Kropp

Forum News Service publishes expose on human trafficking in the Oil Patch in western North Dakota, while the New York Times reports on corruption and murder on Native American reservation there.


As I observed in my SocialFunds.com article published on Monday, January has been proclaimed by President Obama as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. And in October, as a reminder to those who believe human sex trafficking is limited to Asian tourist destinations, ECPAT-USA posted a Public Service Announcement (PSA) entitled It Happens Here.

“Over 100,000 children are victims of sex trafficking in the US,” the video states at the outset.

Formerly rural communities, such as those in North Dakota, whose traditional way of life has been severely disrupted by the arrival of large scale hydraulic fracturing operations, are especially vulnerable to increased sex trafficking, as a recent report by the Forum News Service reveals. And while the report found that many hospitality venues in western North Dakota are making efforts to address evidence of sex trafficking, the report is silent on whether companies engaged in fracking are involved in educating a largely single male workforce on the implications. The report points out that in many of the communities affected, the ratio of men to women can be as high as 3:1.

Initially, when sustainable investors engaged with fracking companies on the risks associated with their operations, they tended to focus on environmental factors. In 2012, however, shareowners expanded their scope to include community impacts. "Shale gas companies must earn their 'social license' by operating in a more responsible manner," Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), said at the time. "Companies must address the community and environmental concerns prompting bans and moratoria. They must listen closely, respond sensitively, and account to both investors and communities for their actions. Otherwise, this is an uncharted process of unwanted development that deprives communities of their rights and leads to litigation and loss of investor confidence."

In 2014, sustainable shareowners focused their engagement with fracking companies on the issue of methane emissions, a crucial ask as methane is a much more destructive greenhouse gas (GHG) than is carbon dioxide. They engaged with companies on the issue of human trafficking as well, but primarily with trucking companies domestically. The issue of whether fracking companies should assume a measure of responsibility for the sex trafficking that has proliferated in the communities in which they do business appear to remain unresolved.

The Native American Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota “is No. 1 for tribal oil produced on American soil in the United States right now currently today,” tribal chairman Tex G. Hall proudly stated last year, according to a recent report from The New York Times. According to The Times, the tribe, which had to relocate when its farmland was flooded by the construction of a reservoir, was deeply in debt until the discovery of shale oil abruptly changed its fortunes. Today, The Times reports, hydraulically fractured wells “are pumping over 386,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of North Dakota’s output.”

The Times report details rampant corruption and even murder for hire that reached as high as Mr. Hall, the tribal chairman, who has thus far evaded indictment. However, the Native American community responded to the scandal by decisively voting Hall out of office, replacing him with Mark N. Fox.

“If we change our mentality, we can turn things around,” Mr. Fox said. “We can remind the oil companies our land is sacred and they need to respect it. We can deal with revenue responsibly and keep it out of our councilmen’s back pockets. We can put the people first.”

As in the report from Forum News Service, The Times makes no mention of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing. But the community impacts of their operations are undeniable.

 

 
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