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4 Worker Fatalities Linked to Used Fracking Fluid Exposure

By Cliff Weathers - Alternet, May 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. 

Field studies conducted by the U.S. Government have revealed that hydrofracking fluids are responsible for the deaths of four field workers since 2010. 

The report, recently released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety, suggests that workers could be exposed to hazardous levels of toxic volatile hydrocarbons found in waste fracking fluids.

“According to our information, at least four workers have died since 2010 from what appears to be acute chemical exposures during flow back operations at well sites in the Williston Basin (North Dakota and Montana),” government researchers wrote. “While not all of these investigations are complete, available information suggests that these cases involved workers who were gauging flow back or production tanks or involved in transferring flow back fluids at the well site.”

The institute is also assessing worker exposure to other chemicals mixed into fluids that are injected into the earth during fracking. Those findings will be detailed in later publications, according to Max Kiefer, a NIOSH spokesperson. 

(Working Paper #1) Global Shale Gas and the Anti-Fracking Movement

By Sean Sweeney and Lara Skinner - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 2014

This paper has been prepared to assist unions and their close allies who wish to better understand the impacts of shale gas drilling, or “fracking,” and want to develop a position or approach to fracking that protects workers, communities, and the environment. It begins with a summary of the shale gas industry’s global expansion, and then looks at the opposition to fracking that has emerged in a number of key countries. A preliminary profile of the anti-fracking movement highlights the goals and characteristics of this movement as well as the issues that lie at the heart of the resistance.

The paper concludes by attempting to bring together the available information on unions’ perspectives and positions on this increasingly important issue. It also raises for discussion the prospect of unions giving support to a global moratorium on fracking based either on the precautionary principle (the health and environmental effects are not fully understood or have still to be adequately addressed) or on the more definitive assessment that fracking can never be sufficiently safe in terms of its impact on health and the environment and should therefore be stopped altogether.

Read the report (PDF).

Well Worker Safety and Statistics

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Manager of Science and Communications, FracTracker Alliance, May 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. 

The population most at risk from accidents and incidents near unconventional drilling operations are the drillers and contractors within the industry. While that statement may seem quite obvious, let’s explore some of the numbers behind how often these workers are in harm’s way and why.

O&G Risks

Oil and Gas Worker Fatalities over Time

Fig. 1. Number of oil and gas worker fatalities over time
Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014

Drilling operations, whether conventional or unconventional (aka fracking), run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Workers may be on site for several hours or even days at a time. Simply the amount of time spent on the job inherently increases one’s chances of health and safety concerns. Working in the extraction field is traditionally risky business. In 2012, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction jobs experienced an overall 15.9 deaths for every 100,000 workers, the second highest rate among American businesses. (Only Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting jobs had a higher rate.)

According to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas industry employed 188,003 workers in 2012 in the U.S., a jump from 120,328 in 2003. Preliminary data indicate that the upward employment trend continued in 2013. However, between 2003 and 2012, a total of 1,077 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job (Fig. 1).

Causes of Injuries and Fatalities in Oil and Gas Field

Reasons for O&G Fatalities 2003-12. Aggregated from Table 1.

Fig. 2. Reasons for O&G Fatalities 2003-12. Aggregated from Table 1.

Like many industrial operations, here are some of the reasons why oil and gas workers may be hurt or killed according to OSHA:

  • Vehicle Accidents
  • Struck-By/ Caught-In/ Caught-Between Equipment
  • Explosions and Fires
  • Falls
  • Confined Spaces
  • Chemical Exposures

This Company’s Gas Plants Just Keep on Exploding

By John Upton - Originally published at Grist, April 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Perhaps executives at the Williams energy company have fiery personalities. Or maybe they just don’t care about safety, or about their workers or neighbors.

A huge explosion at one of the company’s gas processing plants in southern Wyoming on Wednesday afternoon triggered the evacuation of all residents of the small nearby town of Opal. The plant, which is connected to six pipelines that help feed fracked natural gas to customers throughout the American West, burned throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday, when its neighbors were allowed to return to their homes.

As extraordinary as the (fortunately injury-free) accident sounds, something similar happened just four weeks ago at a Williams gas processing plant near the Washington-Oregon border. That explosion injured five workers and led to the evacuation of 400 residents.

Less than a year ago, workers were injured when one of the company’s natural gas facilities blew up in Branchburg, N.J. The company’s pipelines have also blown up.

Also last year, a leak of 241 barrels of fluid from a Williams natural gas processing plant in Colorado contaminated a creek with carcinogenic benzene. At least nothing blew up that time.

“Williams is committed to maintaining the highest standards of safety,” the company claims on its website. We’d hate to see what lower standards looked like.

Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America

By Lorne Stockman, et. al. - Oil Change International, May 2014

This report tracks the rise of crude-by-rail in North America, detailing where crude trains are being loaded and unloaded, how many trains carrying crude oil are crossing the North American continent, and who is involved in this burgeoning trade.

This reportis the first in a series covering North America’s booming crude-by-rail industry and is being published in conjunction with a unique interactive on line map of crude-by-rail terminals and potential routes.

Future reports in this series will look at the economics of crude-by-rail, safety, and climate change issues. Please see this site for the map and links to reports and data.

Read the report (English PDF).

Wine and Milk vs. Oil and Gas: Existing Industries Go Up Against Fossil Fuel Job Promises

By Justin Mikulka - DeSmog Blog, April 15, 2010

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Ken Stanton’s 400-cow dairy farm lies in the path of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, which would carry fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York.

Three generations of Stanton’s family spoke in opposition to the pipeline during a packed public comment session at a hearing at Cobleskill-Richmondville high school on March 31.

“The pipeline would cut through my land. With eminent domain, there’s nothing I can do. It doesn’t feel like America anymore,” Stanton told the Daily Gazette.  

It’s people like Stanton who stand to lose in the face of new fossil fuel developments, despite the job-creation claims of industry.

Until recently, new projects were justified in the name of American energy independence, but with the new push to lift the Jones act to allow for crude oil exports and the big PR effort to ramp up liquid petroleum gas (LPG) exports, the new spin is job creation. 

The American Petroleum Institute has abandoned the energy independence approach and gone with the new argument about jobs — and the media was happy to broadcast the message.  From CNBC:

By lifting restrictions on crude oil exports, the U.S. economy could generate more than a quarter of a million jobs and save consumers billions in energy costs, the American Petroleum Institute said Monday.

In addition to the promise of jobs, the institute is claiming exporting more crude oil will lower prices for American consumers. This is a bold claim given that this past year propane prices in the U.S. hit record prices, coinciding with an exports increasing by 75 percent.

Pipe dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL a report by Cornell University Global Labor Institute

By Ian Goodman and Brigid Rowan - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011

The purpose of this briefing paper is to examine claims made by TransCanada Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute that, if constructed, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline will generate enough employment to kick-start important sections of the US economy through the creation of tens of thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands—of good, well-paying jobs for American workers.

This briefing paper raises a number of questions regarding the jobs claims promoted by the industry, questions that are serious enough to generate a high level of skepticism regarding the value of KXL as an important source of American jobs. With national unemployment levels presently (September 2011) around 9%, and the real unemployment figures considerably higher, jobs are desperately needed both to sustain families and to help the broader economy. However, it is our assessment—based on the publicly available data—that the construction of KXL will create far fewer jobs in the US than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates.

The results presented below should also cast doubt on the recent claim made by American Petroleum Institute that the oil industry could create more than a million jobs over the next decade—if the US government would open public lands, beaches, oceans, to unlimited oil drilling. If the industry’s jobs estimates made in the context of KXL are any indication, then this broader claim should be scrutinized very carefully indeed.

Read the report (PDF).

Transport Workers and Climate Change: Towards Sustainable, Low-Carbon Mobility

By ITF Climate Change Working Group - International Transport Workers’ Federation, August 4, 2010

This report, now more than a decade old, was remarkably forward-thinking for its time (except for the uncritically positive assessment of Carbon Capture and Storage and Cap-and-Trade, positions the authors would likely now no longer hold. It also, interestingly, includes in an appendix, the delegate of one union affiliate, Robert Scardelletti, President of the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), from the US, who dissented from this report's conclusions, because it's green unionist orientation would "destroy jobs", a position held by the most conservative unions in the AFL-CIO.

From the introduction:

Climate change is the biggest single challenge ever faced by human civilization. Human economic activity has put so much carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere that serious global warming is already happening. As a society, we have no choice but to reduce these emissions drastically in order to stand a good chance of avoiding potentially catastrophic changes in our climate. Moreover, emissions from transport are rising faster than emissions from any other sector and in some cases the increase in transport emissions is counteracting emissions reductions achieved in other sectors. Lowering transport emissions presents a series of unique and formidable challenges.

The good news for transport workers is that a serious approach to emissions reductions will create new opportunities for quality employment, particularly in public transport, railways (both passenger and freight), transport infrastructure, road repair, and in developing clean transport technologies. But failure to act on climate change will have the opposite effect.

Read the text (PDF).

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