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As the Hydraulic Fracturing Practice Grows in Texas, So Do Concerns About Its Safety

At a time when onshore oil and gas drilling continues to rise, many questions remain unanswered about the safety of “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, a method of oil extraction that has grown increasingly popular.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method used in Texas and across the United States to access oil in onshore areas where it would otherwise be too difficult to drill. The process involves injecting high-pressure fluid into a well bore in order to create small fractures in deep rock formations. The small fractures then allow oil or gas to escape and reach the well. The hydraulic fracturing method was first used in 1947, and it has since spread widely across the country. Many proponents of the method praise the fact that it allows the United States to continue to produce domestic energy despite earlier beliefs that there were very few reachable oil reserves remaining.

At the same time, critics of hydraulic fracturing claim that it poses a threat both to the environment and nearby communities, and to the oil and gas workers themselves. One area of concern is the type of chemicals used in the high-pressure solution. While proponents of the method claim that chemicals are just a tiny percentage of the overall solution, the fact is that significant chemicals are still being used. Yet the companies with the most hydraulic fracturing wells have failed to disclose at least one chemical used in the process, making it impossible to get an accurate sense of the method’s effect on the groundwater that it comes in contact with, and therefore on its community impact. Still, several communities located near hydraulic fracturing wells have complained that their water was contaminated by fracturing fluid. At least Texas is one of five states that require public records on any fluid spills.

Then there are the possible hazards for workers in the industry. This blog has already discussed how vulnerable workers of all industries are due to Texas’ loose regulations surrounding worker safety. Texas is the only state in the nation that does not require in-state businesses to carry state workers compensation insurance. From 2008 to 2012, Texas led the nation with worker deaths in hydraulic fracturing, at 216. This represents an increase of 7.4 percent above hydraulic fracturing deaths from previous years. Safety advocates have proposed applying tougher rules, such as those currently enforced at refineries and chemical plants. Yet, while offshore companies follow these same rules, industry advocates for onshore drilling sites have opposed them. Until the industry adopts tougher standards and more accountability, one of the only ways to get relief when a loved one is harmed at a hydraulic fracturing site is to file a lawsuit.

Those who have been injured in a workplace accident could be entitled to workers’ compensation, as well as compensation from any third party responsible. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to help. Call our office today for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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