Russell McElyea is suing Atmos Energy Corporation after being severely burned when his friend's home exploded due to a gas leak. On May 14, 2017, Mr. McElyea was visiting his friend Raul Pedroza at his home in Stephenville, Texas. Mr. Pedroza was preparing lunch when he lit his stove, causing the house to explode in a gaseous fireball. McElyea managed to grab Pedroza and drag him out the front door just before an additional explosion occurred in the home. McElyea suffered burns to his face and arms and even went into a coma shortly after the incident. Pedroza sustained serious burns to more than 70 percent of his body, eventually succumbing to his wounds. According to the lawsuit, Atmos failed to properly warn Pedroza and himself of the dangers associated with gas leaks.
Last week, a Shell oil facility leaked nearly 90,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, according to federal authorities. The spill has left a two-mile by thirteen-mile sheen in the Gulf, approximately 165 miles southwest of New Orleans. The spill was first noticed near Shell's Brutus platform on Thursday morning.
Texas crude oil production had hit 2.9 million barrels per day in July of 2013, roughly equal to Brazil's daily production this past year. The boom caused a large influx of workers, resulting in more work-related accidents. Between 2010 and 2014, nearly half of the nations' oil field deaths were in Texas. Most of the fatalities occurred at Eagle Ford Shale in La Salle County. There have been eight reported deaths, including three workers in a single explosion last year. There is speculation that Texas fatality numbers are higher than reported. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently has investigations open regarding hazardous incidents, but their findings are not available to the public yet. OHSA often levies citations and fines to companies that fail to follow regulations that could create a hazardous work environment.
It has been reported that a large pipeline explosion occurred at an oil and gas facility near Encinal, Texas at approximately 4:15 this morning. The facility's operator, Lewis Energy Group, has issued a statement that no injuries were reported. Photos taken show an orange glow from several miles away, and nearby residents were evacuated to a truck stop further away from the explosion site. The cause of the blast is under investigation.
On May 6, 2015, another train transporting oil and gas derailed and erupted into flames. The accident marks the fifth high-profile case in as many months and serves as another reminder of the dangers of domestic oil-and-gas production absent safe infrastructure to move it.
The number of injuries and environmental disasters along America's roads, pipelines, and railways involving the movement of oil and gas has proliferated in recent years along with domestic production. An enormous explosion in West Virginia on Monday reminds us of the potential hazards of such activity to the communities located along such transport routes.
On Thursday, a federal judge for the first time found that BP was indeed the primary culprit and that only it had acted with "conscious disregard of known risks." He added that BP's "conduct was reckless." By finding that BP was, in legal parlance, grossly negligent in the disaster, and not merely negligent, United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier opened the possibility of $18 billion in new civil penalties for BP, nearly quadruple the maximum Clean Water Act penalty for simple negligence and far more than the $3.5 billion the company has set aside.
Onshore oilfields are among the most dangerous workplaces in America, and the Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico is no different. Last week, two oilfield workers were killed in the span of two days in Eddy County, New Mexico. Unfortunately, that was only the second-deadliest week for Eddy County oilfields this year-three were killed in the first week of May.
Oil and Gas workers are subject to some of the most hazardous industrial conditions in the U.S., and serious injuries and fatalities often occur from oil and gas accidents. In January of this year, NPR reported that accidents among workers in the industry are on the rise. From 2009 to 2012 the industry added 23 percent more workers, "[b]ut the hiring spree has come with a terrible price: Last year, 138 workers were killed on the job - an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009," wrote Andrew Schneider and Marilyn Geewax for NPR. "In fact, the fatality rate among oil and gas workers in now nearly eight times higher than the all-industry rate of 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers."