Fort Berthold man sentenced for sexual abuse
BISMARCK U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on July 16, 2014, Richard G. Staples, 24, Parshall, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland on a charge of sexual abuse.
Judge Hovland sentenced Staples to serve five years and four months in federal prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Hovland ordered Staples to pay a $100 special assessment to the Crime Victim's Fund. Staples will also be required to register as a sex offender once released from prison.
In or about May of 2013, Staples, an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, sexually abused an individual incapable of consenting to sexual activity on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Fort Berthold Agency and Three Affiliated Tribes Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Volk.
Job Service: More women seeking oil and gas jobs
A shift in the labor market has drawn more women seeking permanent work in the oil and gas industry, said a manager at Job Service North Dakota in Williston.
The state's workforce agency kept tabs on gender ratios from January to June.
The total number of people walking into the downtown office increased by 33 percent to 2,264 in June, according to data obtained from Cindy Sanford, the customer service office manager in Williston. The percentage of women seeking jobs have jumped by 65 percent to 804 women.
Women make up 36 percent of the total walk-ins who have registered at Job Service in June, according to the data.
"The labor pool is pretty full. When the boom first started, all you needed was a body," Sanford said. "Now companies are hiring for more technical positions like lease operators. There are also more retail and businesses in the community."
Reasons for women joining the local workforce include the mentioned shift in the labor market and partially includes the fact that more families are staying in the community.
"This is an industry now," said Phil Davis, the customer service officer manager in Bismarck. "It's not just a boom anymore."
The managers said more men than women initially came to the Bakken for drilling jobs. Men who have stayed here for 18 to 24 months tend to bring their families into the community. In the meantime, the oil and gas industry has sought out additional workers for production - lease operators, workover employees, pumpers and technical positions.
The combination of these factors allow women more opportunity to acquire high paying jobs in the Bakken.
"Two years seems to be the make it or break it period. After that, men bring their spouse and families," Sanford said. "Also, companies are not hiring for two-weeks-on and two-weeks-off anymore. They want local."
Job Service provided statistics for an overview of the current supply and demand dynamic of the state's labor market in June.
Online jobs totaled 25,602 open and available positions, according to the report. Openings were lower by 5.6 percent over the prior month, but 19 percent higher than last year.
Transportation and material moving reported the largest number of job openings at 2,781, followed by office and administrative support at 2,508 and construction and extraction at 2,255.
Williams and McKenzie counties have less than 1 percent unemployment, but the two have vastly different amounts of job open and active resumes, according to the report. Williams had 723 resumes for 2,654 jobs, and McKenzie had 94 resumes for 345 jobs the same month, according to the report.
The managers said the differences between the counties stems from Williams County having more retail and the fact many oil and gas companies are located there. They added that Watford City doesn't have a Job Service office and those seeking employment often visit Williston to apply for work in the downtown office.
Last year, Williams County was ranked as offering the highest wages in the state with its employees earning $78,390 annually.
Williams County and Williston had population counts of 29,595 and 20,850 in 2013, according to state data. The largest employed are mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, with 13,406 employees. Management of companies and enterprises earned the highest average weekly wages at $3,974, compared to the overall weekly wages of $1,605.
The report ranked occupations by highest wage per hour.
The highest paid include management at $46.01, engineers, legal at $32.93, architects and surveyors at $30.44, physicians, dentists and nurses at $31.46 and computer programmers and statisticians at $27.08, according to the report.
Also on the list were teachers at $22.46, police officers at $18.94, carpenters and oil and gas roustabouts at $22.91, maintenance and repair at $22.33, truck drivers at $19.36, welders at $18.43 and farm work and labors at $15.55, according to the report.
The wages don't tell the full story, however, since oil and gas companies offer employees per-diems and overtime to offset their starting salary base.
"It's not always the money, it's who you work for," said Sanford, who has seen turnover rates as high as 45 percent. "Everyone was jumping to other companies for 50 cents or $1. Workers would say they didn't quit their job, they quit their manager."
Today, companies have a larger, more diverse population base. Management doesn't just "take bodies" anymore, and the transition form temporary to permanent positions often require someone with experience who is willing to remain in Williston.
"They want local," Davis said. "Loyalty goes a long way."
June airline passenger numbers up in North Dakota
BISMARCK (AP) - Passenger numbers in June at North Dakota's eight commercial service airports were up more than 6 percent over the same month a year ago.
The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission says there were 99,658 boardings in the month, an increase of 5,992 passengers from June 2013.
The month marked the first time that all eight airports have been able to offer jet service. Devils Lake and Jamestown added jets to Denver on June 5.
Aeronautics Commission director Kyle Wanner says air service has never been better in North Dakota.
Bishop expects church to help trafficking victims
FARGO (AP) - The bishop of the Fargo Catholic Diocese says he's deeply troubled by the recent rise in North Dakota human trafficking cases and expects the church will eventually taking a larger role in helping human trafficking victims.
State government and law enforcement officials say sex trafficking is a growing problem in North Dakota, particularly in the oil patch.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said earlier this week the number of responses law enforcement officers receive after posting phony sex advertisements offering underage women is alarming. Stenehjem said arresting would-be sex offenders has become like "shooting fish in a barrel."
Coal railroad's delay reflects hurdles for exports
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - U.S. coal industry efforts to tap into the growing export market are struggling to gain traction, as bureaucratic hurdles and resistance from environmentalists slow proposed mines in the Northern Plains, ports on the West Coast and now a proposed coal railroad in Montana.
The Surface Transportation Board said Friday it will take until next April to complete its draft analysis of the Tongue River Railroad. That's the second significant delay in work originally scheduled for completion last year.
The $403 million proposed rail line is jointly owned by BNSF Railway, Arch Coal, Inc. and candy-industry billionaire Forrest Mars, Jr.. If built, it would open the door to new mines in the Powder River Basin along the Montana-Wyoming border - home to one of the largest coal reserves in the world and the supplier of about 40 percent of the fuel burned in the U.S.
Surface Transportation Board spokesman Dennis Watson said the decision to bump back the schedule on the railroad study was made to accommodate the "intense interest" in the project. The additional time will give all sides a chance to make their views known, he said.
Coal companies want to move more of their product to markets in Asia as domestic demand wanes due to stricter pollution rules and competition from cheap natural gas. The quickest route is through the West Coast. Yet despite modest growth in recent months, West Coast export volumes remain severely constrained by limited port capacity.
The railroad's sponsors say that in addition to international markets, there is more than enough domestic demand for coal from Arch's proposed Otter Creek mine, which the rail line would serve.
Midwest utilities including Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Electric Power Company have told transportation officials they support the rail line.
"The Tongue River rail line will be built if, as the owners believe, there will be a demand for Otter Creek coal in the coming years," the railroad's attorney, David Coburn, wrote in a filing with the Surface Transportation Board.
Elected officials in Washington and Oregon and environmentalists have opposed proposals to sharply expand that capacity, and several projects have been scrapped or stalled. That has direct bearing on mines and related projects in the Powder River Basin, including southeastern Montana's Tongue River Railroad.
Concerns have previously been raised about the railroad's potential negative impacts on farmers and ranchers and American Indian cultural sites in the area.
BNSF spokesman Matt Jones said the railroad's sponsors still were targeting completion of the line by the time Arch's mine is ready to ship coal.
But the timing of that, too, is uncertain.
Otter Creek, located near Ashland, Montana, is the site of a 1.4 billion ton reserve. Company executives once predicted Otter Creek could open next year.
It's now more than two years behind its original permitting schedule and is likely years away from opening given the time needed to develop the mine's infrastructure.
Just a few years ago, the industry's export aspirations appeared to be coming to fruition, with record volumes being shipped out of U.S. ports. Growth has since stalled, and projections from the U.S. Department of Energy and others show modest or even negative coal exports growth over the next decade.
Railroad opponents assert that long-term trends are stacked against coal and the Tongue River Railroad, as the U.S. and other governments take steps to reduce pollution from power plants that use the fuel.
"I'm no expert, but it seems like there's not going to be a whole lot of money to be made in coal. Maybe the big investors are realizing it's not a good idea," said Mark Fix, a rancher along the Tongue River whose land would be bisected by one of the railroad route alternatives that is under consideration by the federal transportation board.