In recent years, the amount of crude oil shipped by rail in the United States has grown by a factor of 50. Oil trains carried around 500,000 cars of crude in 2014 compared with 9,500 in 2008. Traveling to refineries and ports on the nation's coasts, oil trains carrying 100 or more cars pass through some of the country's largest urban areas. The result is that cities are rushing to develop emergency preparedness plans to deal with the disasters that could occur if a train derailed, caught fire or crashed.
Oil workers in Texas, California, Kentucky and Washington state are striking. One of the main issues, according to one news report on the oil workers' strike, is safety. According to the vice president of the United Steel Workers' Union USW), which represents oil and gas workers in the four states, the work stoppage is about:
In our previous blog post, we discussed some of the occupational illnesses that workers in the oil and gas industry may suffer as a result of exposure to a variety of toxic substances. This blog continues the exploration of the hazards that compromise oil and gas worker health and safety.
It should come as no surprise to Texas residents that the oil boom has resulted in numerous accidents and toxic emissions that have injured or killed workers and residents. One website, Earthjustice.org, tracks oil and gas production throughout the United States along with other issues that impact air, water and health. The site, with its associated blog, reports on oil and gas accidents and other industrial events that raise health and safety issues for workers and people living near industrial, oil drilling and chemical sites.
Texas and the rest of the country have benefited from a rapid increase in domestic energy production in the past few years.
North America's energy boom comes at a large rice however -- Politico reports that oil train accidents have skyrocketed in the in the last few years.
The surge in domestic oil production has generated intense debate about the environmental impact of fracking and gas pipelines.
Officials from Northwest Pipeline say that last week's dramatic explosion at an East Washington storage facility was caused by a pressure vessel rupture.
The Washington Post reports that the rupture occurred on a vessel that removes the carbon dioxide from the gas prior to liquefaction.
According the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 663 oil and gas workers have been killed in work-related accidents during the boom years of 2007-2012. It's estimated that just under half of those fatal oil and gas accidents (40 percent) occurred here in Texas. In total, there have been close to 18,000 reports of injury and illness related to oil and gas exploration, extraction and production in Texas since 2007.
A La Porte plant erupted in flames this morning after a gas pipeline burst at Enterprise Products. At least two injuries have been reported in the workplace blast; firefighters have been on scene fighting the blaze since this morning. Two contract workers were treated onsite by emergency responders; their injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Here in Texas, particularly in the Eagle Ford Shale and the Barnett Shale plays, increased truck traffic that is the byproduct of the booming oil and gas industry has caused headaches, damage and serious accidents on rural and large roadways. In North Dakota, where the Bakken field has led to a substantial boom in shale production, increased train traffic is causing similar problems. Train transport is used to move approximately two-thirds of North Dakota's shale oil from the fields into production sites.