It’s harder to view oil and gas workers as disposable when their stories are told. And that’s what Ray Ring does in the latest issue of High Country News. In a special report, Ring painstakingly documents the stories of oil and gas boom workers who have lost their lives and limbs in the past six years, all in the service of cheap energy. I won’t quote much here, since the story simply must be read, but here’s an small excerpt:
Workers get crushed by rig collapses, they fall off the steel ledges and the maze of catwalks and ladders and walkways, they get caught in spinning chains, winches and cables. Sometimes they get strangled by their own fall-protection harnesses. On or off the rigs, they handle flammables, and sometimes they get fireballed. They succumb to poisonous hydrogen sulfide, which occurs in natural gas before it’s processed; one whiff is fatal. They get slammed by valves and pipes that explode under high pressure. They get hit by lightning, freeze to death and die of heat stroke, because the work takes place outside, and it goes on 24/7, 365 days a year, pretty much no matter what.
And Ring documents and tells all these stories in all their painful, gruesome, and important detail. Other great reports have been written on the human costs of the Interior West’s oil and gas boom, many in the HCN’s pages, but Ring’s 10,000-word odyssey is one of the best I’ve read. He uses FOIAed information as well as personal accounts to craft a truly compelling narrative. There’s a heartbreaking and poignant table listing all 89 deaths and their causes along with the article, and a photo gallery as well. If you live out West, I recommend picking up a copy in a bookstore, or if you don’t and are interested, you should contact HCN’s circulation department to ask for one — the print version is just that much better.