Letter: Hidden impacts of gas work
Thanks to Heidi Rice and the Post Independent for calling to our attention another tragic effect of the oil and gas industry: family separation (“Split Up By Economy”, Nov. 12). It’s hard to imagine how it must feel, and under what circumstances it must be necessary, to have to leave one’s family on a horse ranch in beautiful western Colorado for an oil rig in barren North Dakota. For some people there isn’t enough money in Fort Knox to be separated from family that way. One would think that a long-time employee of the oil and gas industry would have a more secure job near home, given the industry’s promises of “jobs” and “economic security.”
But there is money to be made in the North Dakota boom. As Ms. Rice noted in the article, a rig worker can make a salary of $100,000 per year. And strippers in Williston, which promotes itself as “Boomtown U.S.A.”, can make as much as $2,000 to $3,000 per night. Who says there’s nothing going on up there?
But, as the area director of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration said after one worker was killed and two others seriously injured at an oil rig in Weld County, Colorado, two weeks ago, “It’s a dangerous industry.” And it was just over a month ago that a gas worker was killed instantly on a Cyclone Drilling rig being operated for WPX energy north of Parachute. It was an awful tragedy; WPX’s heart went out to his family.
Recent articles in the New York Times (“Where Oil and Politics Mix” and “The Downside of the Boom”) highlight the dangers and corruption of the oil and gas boom in North Dakota. Angry farmers discovered documents showing that the governor there was bribed by the industry. They reported it to the FBI, but the FBI didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
Even so, though industry opposition is ridiculed there, anxiety about the overwhelming power of the oil and gas industry seems to be spreading. It was the site of America’s largest on-land oil spill in 2013 (which, by the way, went unreported for 11 days), and then there was the oil train derailment and explosion in the same year that caused serious injury to workers and pollution to the local environment. More recently, spills, leaks, fires and blowouts there have increased at a rate “that outpaces the increase in oil production,” according to the NY Times articles. In fact, there was an “environmental incident” for every six wells in 2013 – and that’s just the ones reported by industry. So far this year alone, 3.8 million gallons of oils and chemicals have “spilled, leaked, or misted into the air, soil, and waters” of North Dakota.
I guess it just goes to show you that for all the appearance of gain there’s always hidden loss.
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