GUEST OPINION: Questioning WPX’s ‘environmental ethic’ | PostIndependent.com

GUEST OPINION: Questioning WPX’s ‘environmental ethic’

Bill Conder

I read with interest Scott Condon’s article in the July 8 Post Independent concerning WPX’s image and its pride in “its environmental ethic.” One must ask, “What environment are we talking about?” And, “Which ethics?”

Mr. Condon quotes WPX community relations representative Jeff Kirtland as saying that opposition to gas industry practices has to do with “a level of misunderstanding that’s hard to overcome.” Although they’re doing their best to “overcome,” we might rephrase Mr. Kirtland’s statement as “a level of understanding that can’t be massaged away.” Even at the Vapor Caves.

Mr. Condon writes, “Kirtland said 90 percent of the complaints WPX historically received were over truck traffic.” Again, the context in which this statement was made is not clear. In any case, WPX/Williams has a long history of serious accidents and violations in Garfield County and around the country. Apparently Mr. Condon drank the Kool-Aid and forgot to do his homework:

• In January 2013, the Williams Parachute Creek facility leaked 7,000 to 8,000 gallons of hydrocarbons, creating a 10-plus-acre plume. In spite of the “advanced technology,” the leak was discovered by accident. In July 2013, OSHA fined the Williams company Bogarth and others $27,000 for not providing respirators to clean-up crews and for not telling workers what it was they were cleaning up.

In January 2014, OSHA cited Williams for six workplace violations of safety management standards, one of which as “willful.” Williams contested the pitifully small $99,000 fine.

• In March 2014 a Williams pipeline exploded near Plymouth, Washington, injuring five people. The explosion was so powerful that it sent a 250-pound piece of shrapnel flying 300 yards into the wall of a storage tank.

• In April 2014, an explosion at a Williams gas processing facility in Opal, Wyoming, caused the evacuation of the town. Miraculously, no one was killed or injured.

• In April 2014, a Williams pipeline in West Virginia exploded near the site where Williams is building a gas refinery.

• In June 2013, an explosion at the Williams facility near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killed two and injured 114 people. After this disastrous event, Williams’ president and CEO made a public statement that included a note about his company’s “solid safety record.” However, local newspapers reported that, in fact, Williams had several leaks leading up to the explosion, and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said that Williams had a history of safety regulation non-compliance. In January 2014, OSHA cited Williams for six workplace violations of safety management standards, one of which as “willful.” Williams contested the pitifully small $99,000 fine.

This is not a complete list.

Williams is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and, as such, its first responsibility is to its investors, whatever image its local community relations representative tries to create for local people. It’s just how these companies work. However, if what the Carbon Tracker Initiative and others are saying is true, that the “carbon bubble” is about to burst, the “pop” that WPX executives talk about on their website won’t be the sound of explosive growth.

Editor’s note: Williams Companies spun off WPX Energy in a split effective Jan. 1, 2012, with WPX focused on exploration and production, and Williams focused on pipelines and other energy infrastructure.


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