The recent oil boom in North Dakota – driven by hydraulic fracturing and advances in technology – is a big reason why the U.S. is now the world’s leader in combined oil and natural gas production.
But the boom in the Bakken shale, which stretches over North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada, has made it one of the deadliest places for workers in the country.
Reveal reporter Jennifer Gollan headed to North Dakota to examine the story of one young man’s tragic death, exposing the dangers oil workers face. Her investigation found that deeply entrenched corporate practices and weak federal oversight have inoculated major energy producers against responsibility when workers are killed or injured, while shifting the blame to others. Only one energy operator that leases or owns wells has been cited for worker deaths in North Dakota or Montana over the past five years, Reveal’s analysis has found.
Oil companies offer financial incentives to workers for speeding up production – potentially jeopardizing their safety – and shield themselves through a web of companies to avoid paying the full cost of settlements with affected workers and their families when workers are injured or killed.
Jennifer Gollan is an award-winning reporter. Her investigation When Abusers Keep Their Guns, which exposed how perpetrators often kill their intimate partners with guns they possess unlawfully, spurred sweeping provisions in federal law that greatly expanded the power of local and state police and prosecutors to crack down on abusers with illegal firearms. The project won a 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and has been nominated for a 2022 Emmy Award.
Gollan also has reported on topics ranging from oil companies that dodge accountability for workers’ deaths to shoddy tire manufacturing practices that kill motorists. Her series on rampant exploitation and abuse of caregivers in the burgeoning elder care-home industry, Caregivers and Takers, prompted a congressional hearing and a statewide enforcement sweep in California to recover workers’ wages. Another investigation – focused on how Navy shipbuilders received billions in public money even after their workers were killed or injured on the job – led to tightened federal oversight of contractors’ safety violations.
Gollan’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Guardian US and Politico Magazine, as well as on PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera English’s “Fault Lines” program. Her honors include a national Emmy Award, a Hillman Prize for web journalism, two Sigma Delta Chi Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, a National Headliner Award, a Gracie Award and two Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing awards. Gollan is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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