Articles Posted in Oil and Gas Accidents

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According to a report published by environmental watch group Earthworks, state regulators across the nation are placing Americans at risk by failing to properly inspect oil and gas wells. The report, titled Breaking All the Rules, examined regulatory data collected in six states: Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The Earthworks research report claims most states do not have the resources or equipment necessary to adequately inspect every active oil and gas well within the state on a regular basis. For example, Pennsylvania guidelines suggest each active oil and gas well should be inspected five times per year. Instead, 91 percent of active wells were not inspected in 2010. According to the report, that means about 82,000 oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania were not examined by state regulators that year. In Colorado, 15 state inspectors were reportedly tasked with inspecting more than 16,000 wells in 2010. In New Mexico, 12 inspectors allegedly conducted a total of 20,780 reviews during the same year.

The report states oil and gas well safety violations are also poorly tracked. In both New Mexico and Colorado, comprehensive violation information is not available to the public. Instead, data is reportedly maintained on a well-by-well basis. Additionally, inspectors are reportedly free to determine whether an unsatisfactory well merits a violation. The group contends that companies who fail to adhere to health, safety, and environmental rules are rarely punished.

In the State of Texas, inspectors purportedly conducted more than 118,000 inspections and noted almost 56,000 violations in fiscal year 2012. Still, Earthworks maintains that action against oil and gas well operators is frequently deferred and financial penalties are often small. Patrick Creighton, a spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an oil and gas production company consortium, called the Earthworks report into question. According to Creighton, the report is false and contrary to publicly available facts. He alleged Earthworks published the report in an effort to spread fear about the safety of the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas workers are placed at risk whenever an oil company fails to adhere to proper safety regulations. Oil and well drilling accidents can be extremely complicated and the process for obtaining damages for any resulting injuries is often tough to navigate. If you or a family member was hurt as a result of an oil and gas company’s negligence, you should speak with a skilled oil and gas accident attorney as soon as possible.

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In early August, more than four thousand residents of the area surrounding a Richmond, California oil refinery were taken to local hospitals for exposure to unknown quantities of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide following a fire at the facility. According to federal investigators, the explosion and resulting fire at the Chevron refinery was likely caused by a corroded pipe the company failed to replace following a safety inspection last fall. In addition to the smoke cloud that sent thousands to the hospital, more than one dozen workers were allegedly placed in harm’s way by the explosion.

A representative from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board stated the incident at the refinery began after a worker noticed a leak in one of the pipes. After the insulation surrounding the pipe was removed for inspection, a large vapor cloud reportedly formed. When workers realized the cloud had formed, they immediately left the area which ignited soon after. A similar incident occurred at the same facility in 1999. In response to the most recent explosion and fire, Chevron has set up an injury claim hotline.

Despite numerous federal safety regulations, the explosion was just one of multiple recent refinery fires across the nation. For example, an early morning explosion and fire at a west Tulsa refinery owned by HollyFrontier Corporation awoke residents of the surrounding community on August 2nd. Although flames were apparently visible from six miles away, no injuries were reported. The cause of that fire is currently under investigation.

The California and Oklahoma refinery fires occurred less than one month after British Petroleum (BP) agreed to pay approximately $13 million in penalties for worker health and safety risks at the company’s Texas City oil refinery. In a follow-up investigation, the nation’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 270 failure-to-abate notices for more than 400 process safety management violations after the agency learned BP did not correct many of the hazardous conditions that led to a refinery explosion that killed 15 workers in March 2005. According to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, the BP settlement was designed to establish a culture of safety at the company’s Texas City refinery. Additionally, she said the goal of the agreement was to save the lives of refinery workers.

Clearly, both employees and nearby residents of oil refineries are placed at risk whenever a big oil company such as Chevron or BP fails to exercise proper safety measures. Oil refinery accidents can be extremely complicated and the process for obtaining compensation for any resulting injuries can be difficult to navigate. If you or a loved one was injured as a result of an oil company’s negligence, you should contact a capable oil and gas accident lawyer as soon as you are able.

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