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Texas’ Offshore Energy Workforce Vulnerable After New Regulatory Safety Rollbacks

Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at 1:12 pm by Williams Hart   

MAY 2019—The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) made public its regulatory safety rollbacks that will dismantle security standards for offshore drilling rig operations that were implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. 

Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig, located about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, that exploded on April 20th, 2010 and consequently caught fire after multiple  safety warnings and violations were ignored. The structure’s poor safety regulations resulted in the deaths of 11 employees, and injuries of 17 others. 4 million barrels of oil were spilled over the course of 84 days.

These rule cuts follow the current administration’s plan to vastly expand oil and natural gas drilling off the nation’s gulf coast line. Additionally, the revisions will reportedly save an estimated $1.5 billion over the next 10 years. 

The following list is a comprehensive summary of safety revisions to take effect 60 days after its submission to the Federal Registrar

  • Reduces testing of blowout preventers–a large, specialized valve used to seal, control and monitor oil and gas wells.
  • Reduces 30-minute safety tests every 14 days, to 5-minute tests every 21 days. 
  • Eliminates a requirement that companies report some of those safety-test results to the Interior Department.
  • Removes a requirement for an Interior Department approved independent expert to verify safety measures and equipment used in offshore drilling operations.
  • Removes a requirement that drilling operators provide real-time data from wells to onshore observers.

While many industry professionals praise the dismantling of these safety precautions, citing that the motion will eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens, others have voiced their concerns that relaxed rules will lead to a surge in workforce injuries–or worse, more fatalities.

A major source of oil and natural gas for the United States, the western and central Gulf of Mexico is now home to approximately 175 offshore drilling rigs that produce 1.65 million barrels of oil per day (2017). 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experience unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. The number of work-related fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry increased by 27.6%, with a total of 1,189 deaths. 

Occupational injuries and fatalities in the oil and gas industry are especially probable when safety precautions are overlooked or eliminated from daily operations. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in oil and natural gas injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If you or someone you love is seriously hurt or fatally injured on an offshore drilling rig, you may be unsure of where to turn. The Houston attorneys of Williams Hart have experience assisting families dealing with the aftermath of a work-related injury or fatality. Please do not hesitate to contact our law firm at (888) 220-0640 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

 

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (713) 352-7071 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


Big Rigs and the Eagle Ford Shale–A Look at South-Central Texas’ Collision Epidemic

Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2019 at 1:26 pm by Williams Hart   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experienced unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. 

But with the oil production boom there comes a familiar price: the safety and lives of the workforce pouring into South-Central Texas, determined to secure steady work and financial stability, and the local population already settled in the 30 counties that make up the long stretch of oil-rich geological formations known as the Eagle Ford Shale.

The countless lives affected by commercial motor vehicle accidents, specifically in the harsh brush-country of South-Central Texas, is a reflection of a deeper issue that has not received adequate attention. 

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the state saw a surge of traffic deaths in 2014, including the 272 lives lost on the roads of the Eagle Ford Shale–an increase of 13% from the previous year. 

Is the spike in big rig accidents related to the oil boom that took place in the energy-rich lands of South-Central Texas? 

A 2015 report released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) says yes.

The study clearly and concretely supports the notion that the amount of drilling activity in an area, such as the Eagle Ford Shale, is strongly correlated with the number of rural commercial vehicle crashes. 

Based on data comparison from 2006-2009 and 2010-2013, research concludes with the following: 

  • As the number of new wells in South-Central Texas increased by 131%;
    • Rural commercial motor vehicles (CMV) collisions increased by 62%;
    • Collision injury costs increased by 52%

Conversely, when drilling activity diminishes, so does the number road accidents.

Common Causes of Big Rig Accidents

  • Driver fatigue

According to the Texas Trucking Association, the state is short nearly 50,000 truck drivers and that number is only expected to increase. With a rapidly retiring workforce, lack of interest from younger generations, stagnant wages, and increasing freight loads, truck drivers are burdened with longer working hours and less time to get from point A to point B. Simply put, drivers cannot keep up with oil production and thus are suffering immense fatigue.

  • Drug and alcohol use

Legal and illegal drug and alcohol use contributes to nearly 65,000 big rig accidents annually. Inconsistent drug and alcohol testing for CDL drivers operating a commercial vehicle is a significant issue. Furthermore, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that 22 percent of truck drivers were driving while receiving disability benefits for epilepsy, alcohol addiction, or drug dependence.

  • Texting and driving

The likelihood of being involved in an accident on the road is 23.2 times higher for truck drivers who text while behind the wheel than for those who don’t. 

Other common causes: 

  • Overweight freight loads
  • Improper vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • Cargo security
  • Poor road conditions and infrastructure, especially in rural West Texas

Road Fatality Prevention Measures

As roadways continue to deteriorate under the weight of countless heavy truck fleets transporting crude oil out of the Eagle Ford Shale, officials have taken notice–and action. 

In 2012, the Texas Department of Transportation developed the Roads for Texas Energy task-force to assess road damage associated with oil and gas production activity in the Eagle Ford Shale regions. 

As of 2016, the task-force has continued addressing these issues by investing investing $569 million in funding to:

  • Prioritize corridors based on three-year average crash data
  • Improve pavement design and reinforcement in those corridors, such as adding turn lanes and shoulder lanes in key locations.

What You Can Do to Prevent Road Fatalities

Road accidents involving 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles are likely to increase as oil production continues to rise in the areas of South-Central Texas. There are measures you can take to subdue the number of fatalities that are expected to occur in the future:

  • Drivers must adhere to limited work hours regulations, such as the 11-hour driving limit and 60-hour weekly duty limit. If the demand for new truck drivers is to be met, life on the road must be improved with shorter work hours and more time to rest.
  • Practice safe driving, for both truckers and passenger vehicles
    • No tailgating, use turn signals, minimize lane changing, stay out of blind spots, use caution in work zones and in inclement weather, apply breaks early
  • Logistics professionals must be cognizant of safety measures such as land transportation safety policies, routine commercial vehicle inspections, and proper freight load management that would further reduce drivers’ exposure to fatal road hazards.

Get the Justice You Deserve

Road fatalities and injuries involving 18-wheelers are serious realities for both big rig operators and regular vehicle passengers, especially on the treacherous, oil-rich roads that wind across the Eagle Ford Shale. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in truck driving accident injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (713) 352-7071 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.

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