September 20, 2017

Gas patch jobs: not all they’re cracked up to be

Theo Colburn, in High Country News, reports that the supposed employment benefits of natural gas development are not all they seem, with problems ranging from health risks that are not covered by OSHA regulations, to practices that shift employment costs and risks to workers while depriving them of unemployment benefits when drillers move on.

Op-Ed – February 25, 2014 by Theo Colborn

Jobs in the oil patch – a realistic look

Many gas patch jobs aren’t high paying once you know the facts.

On television, radio and billboards in the West, the energy industry sells the notion that natural gas production provides badly needed jobs. The ads feature stunningly clean landscapes, sound almost euphoric and are designed to make us feel good.

The contrast between the feel-good nature of the ads and the reality of many of the jobs they tout is also stunning. There are jobs available, yes, but most of the workers in the gas fields are low-paid laborers who have no job security, no health benefits, no unions and no recourse against industry abuses.

These workers are not protected under the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration because they do not work inside buildings or in a deep hole in the ground. They are just now getting some attention from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health –– a good thing, because injured workers who have become so incapacitated that they will never again be able to hold down a job are routinely denied workers’ compensation. Those who get sick are generally unable to prove it’s because they were exposed to something on the job.

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Theo Colborn is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. She established the Endocrine Disruption Exchange in 2002 in Paonia, Colorado, and is co-author of “Our Stolen Future.”