The technology used to drill oil in the arctic region can be fatal to workers and devastating to the environment.This, from a group of workers at the Prudhoe Bay site that is a model for proposed development of the Arctic NationalWildlife Refuge. In information released today, the whistle blowers charge that cost-cutting design, deferredmaintenance, leaky and stuck valves, and under staffing make the arctic oil wells a disaster waiting to happen.Already accidents at Prudhoe Bay have resulted in hundreds of contaminating spills, a major fire and the deaths ofseveral workers.
Despite assurances by the Bush administration that the technology is safe, accidents plague the oil industry.Yesterday in Brazil, an offshore blowout forced the evacuation of workers and dumped thousands of gallons of crudeinto the sea. Just three weeks before a fire and explosion at another Brazilian facility killed 11 workers and sankthe world’s biggest floating oil rig. Also yesterday, an oil rig in New Mexico blew and burst into flames, injuringthree workers, one critically.
Drilling conditions in the arctic are far more difficult. At Prudhoe, workers maintain and inspect open-air wellfacilities throughout the severe winters. The whistle blowers charge that if there were a serious accident, theymight not know for days. And even then, they might be unable to reach machinery that is buried in snow and blasted byhigh winds.
If Bush and his Interior Secretary Gale Norton get their way, similar technology will be used to open up the pristineArctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
- Chuck Hamel, former oil industry insider.
- Jim Carlton, staff reporter, Wall Street Journal.