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Open Letter to Obama: Mr. President, Wake the Frack Up

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Dear President Obama:

In your five years as president you have yet to visit North Dakota. I would like to offer a personal invitation to take you through the western half of North Dakota, the region affected by the Bakken oil boom. The buttes are no longer the biggest draw to the region; they are instead a witness to some of the worst devastation our country has ever seen.

Mr. President, my home state is under attack. The deadly effects are flowing into the nation's largest waterway system and tearing families and local economies apart. I invite you to visit the war zone that is the Bakken oil field and see for yourself.

On September 29 of this year Steve Jensen found oil on his tractor tires. He and the rest of us eventually learned that over 865,000 gallons of oil had been spilled by Tesoro. The public was not informed until 11 days after the event, which is now confirmed as the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. Governor Jack Dalrymple claims he was notified one day before the public. This disaster is ongoing: A few days ago over 20,800 gallons of oil and brine were leaked into a tributary of the Little Missouri River.

The environmental catastrophes, wildly inflated housing and living costs, and human misery -- sex offenses have skyrocketed 314 percent, assault by 300 percent, and burglaries by 400 percent in one community -- are turning Western North Dakota into a ravaged example of the worst that the oil industry and human beings are capable of.

Recently I traveled to 13 towns in that part of the state. My entire drive was lit by the over 9,500 oil wells that are flaring off 29-30 percent of natural gas. I smelled sulfur and chemically treated propane across numerous wheat fields. I visited lawless boomtowns and witnessed rapaciousness and greed firsthand.

We must also recognize, Mr. President, that when we say this boom is good for the economy, it is, in fact, bad for the care of the household, which is the true meaning of economy. Each day between 30-50 new postings for prostitution are listed for just one city in the Bakken. When we say that this boom is good for pocketbooks, we must also face the reality that it is destroying lives due to human trafficking. Every day, children may be sold for sex in the boomtowns. This is the human price of the oil boom in North Dakota, and it is getting worse by the hour.

The unheard of wages in the Bakken (where you can make $18 an hour at Wal-Mart or $15 an hour at McDonald's with a $1,000 signing bonus) have drawn people from across the country. A two-bedroom apartment that cost $500/month in 2011 now costs $2,000.

The White House website states, "The Obama Administration is committed to protecting the air we breathe, water we drink, and land that supports and sustains us."

Mr. President, North Dakotans need to see action based on that commitment. We are breathing deadly air and drinking contaminated water.

The United States of America seems to be based on a disparate economy, one that rewards the rich while systematically destroying the ecosystems we, the people depend upon. Enbridge, Halliburton, and Tesoro are powerful players in our economy, but we, the people elected you as our leader, one who said addressing -- not fueling -- climate change was one of his top priorities. I invite you to the Bakken to witness the environmental and human tragedies that go hand in hand with oil production in North Dakota.

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