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Oil companies are giving back millions to North Dakota

WILLISTON -- As oil companies increase their presence in North Dakota, many are finding more ways to give back to local communities.

For Marathon Oil, getting involved locally and supporting the community with donations is a priority, said Terry Kovacevich, Bakken asset team manager.

"We're all trying to encourage each other to make sure we participate in the communities that we live and operate in," Kovacevich said.

Marathon is the lead contributor to the Housing Incentive Fund, with a $2.5 million contribution, and has pledged $1 million toward St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson.

"We felt the hospital was one big way for Marathon to show leadership in giving back to the community," Kovacevich said.

Halliburton presented a $25,000 check last week to Mercy Medical Center in Williston, the second contribution of that size to the facility.

"It's nice for us to give back to the communities where we work," said Brent Eslinger, senior manager of Halliburton's Williston district.

Matt Grimshaw, CEO of Mercy Medical Center, said Halliburton has been the largest supporter so far, and he's in conversations with other companies about contributing.

"We find them to be very receptive. They believe they need to be good community members," Grimshaw said. "We can't do this alone."

It's not just oil companies that are donating money -- contributions also come from companies that support the oil industry.

Target Logistics, the largest provider of temporary crew camp housing, has given several donations, including $17,000 to the Williston Police Department toward its first K-9 unit, $5,000 to Olympic swimming hopeful Carissa Gormally and a $2,500 scholarship for the Miss North Dakota pageant. The organization also provides food for community events and invited the public to Bear Paw Lodge for a Memorial Day barbecue.

Target Logistics also announced it was giving $55,000 to the Williams County Sheriff's Office to purchase cameras for squad cars.

But with that donation, Williams County Commissioner Dan Kalil said officials didn't feel comfortable accepting the gift because the county would be considering planning and zoning requests from the Target Logistics crew camps.

The $55,000 is still earmarked for the community and will be presented at a later time, according to a company press release.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council is surveying its members to gauge how much the companies have contributed to the community.

Some examples include a $25 million donation from Hess to support education, about $4 million from companies toward Minot flood recovery, and between $4 million and $5 million for the North Dakota Heritage Center, said Ron Ness, council president.

"I think the numbers are going to be pretty big over the past three years here," Ness said. "We're very proud of what they're doing."

Companies also are giving their time by volunteering for cleanup efforts and other projects. For example, SM Energy has logged 360 volunteer hours, according to the Petroleum Council.

Ness said he expects the community support will continue to increase.

"As companies get their foothold and they figure out where their operations are, then they get more engaged in the local communities," Ness said.