We’re airing a series of stories this week about injuries and deaths in North Dakota’s oil patch. Yesterday, we learned how the death of oil worker Dustin Bergsing affected his fiancée, daughter and a close friend.
Today, we explore the legal battle that occurred after Bergsing died. It concerns whether or not Marathon Oil ignored repeated internal warnings about unsafe working conditions at the well site where the young man worked.
Black Gold Boom reporter Todd Melby has the story.
This week we’re exploring injuries and deaths in North Dakota oil country.
Yesterday, we learned about the struggles of a rural ambulance company and the rising number of trauma admissions at western North Dakota hospitals.
Today, we turns our attention to on-the-job deaths in the state’s booming oil industry. According to a 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, oil field workers are seven times more likely to suffer a fatal on-the-job injury than the average American worker.
North Dakota’s non-stop oil boom has made lots of people rich. Some ranchers are millionaires, a few oil bosses are billionaires and lots of working people have more money in their pockets than they used to.
But those riches haven’t come without a cost.
As the boom exploded with drilling rigs, frac crews, and oilfield workers of every kind, the number of on-the-job deaths has jumped to record highs. Traumatic injuries on roads and job sites have also skyrocketed.
A new economic study shows the oil industry is a growing part of the state’s economy.
"The study reveals about a $30 billion industry in North Dakota," said North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness. "60,000 direct jobs. $800 million paid to North Dakotans in direct royalties and other payments. And about $2.2 billion to the state government in terms of revenues."
The study was conducted by two NDSU researchers. It shows the industry has grown nearly 600 percent since 2005. The study shows 2011 numbers.
State mineral resources director Lynn Helms says it may be a little while before the EPA will issue guidance on rules for hydraulic fracturing.
"Their initial goal was to finalize that rule by the end of this year," said Helms. "It's going to be, we think, close to mid-year next year before they can publish a final rule."
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” along with horizontal drilling, has spurred the oil boom in the Bakken. Helms says the US Forest Service has also proposed fracking rules – and he says both have received thousands of comments.
People in the oil patch may see a few changes in 2013.
State mineral resources director Lynn Helms says people will see FEWER drilling rigs than there were in 2012.
"I do not anticipate at this stage of the game that we'll go above 218 rigs," said Helms. That 218 is a record, and was established in May. "That stressed our infrastructure beyond the maximum that it could handle."
A new study shows sharply increased electricity demand in western North Dakota’s Oil Patch.
As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, that demand is driven by continued oil development – and a growing population.
The study is called “The Williston Basin Oil and Gas Related Electrical Load Growth Forecast.” Governor Dalrymple says the study was done by KLJ Engineering at the behest of the state Industrial Commission.