In case you missed this headline news buried in the Local News Briefs on Page 5 in today’s PI (8/22):
GRAND JUNCTION (AP)—Noble Energy is paying $50,000 to settle complaints that it violated reporting requirements for hydrogen sulfide.
The Daily Sentinel reports the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission unanimously approved the settlement Monday. The money would go toward for education efforts on the dangerous gas.
Last year a former contractor for Noble said he became ill from the substance while working at a company site in Garfield County site in 2009, and Noble Energy says it has encountered hydrogen sulfide at sites in Garfield and Weld counties.
Noble Energy notified the Bureau of Land Management after it first found hydrogen sulfide in Garfield County but was accused of not also telling the state commission or a local government designee. State officials have since clarified their reporting requirements.
Silt Mesa resident, Carl McWilliams is the “former contractor” referred to above, as reported in the PI last year: State officials looking into hydrogen sulfide reports. And we all know the outcome of that study in propaganda: State says H2S is not a public health risk in Garfield County.
Carl is an avid reader here and I am so happy to give him this opportunity to share some of his experiences with you as a bona fide whistleblower. Many of my readers know Carl and no doubt share in my gratitude, not only for his courage, but his stick-to-it-tiveness. He single handedly raised awareness of the dangers of hydrogen sulfide emissions and helped improve workplace conditions for thousands of Colorado oil & gas industry workers. Thank you Carl!
Carl McWilliams speaks out on Noble Energy settlement
This COGCC ruling is obviously because of my “blowing the whistle” to federal authorities at OSHA about my 2009 hydrogen sulfide exposure, while working for Lightning Wireline [Lonkar Services] (now a Schlumberger Company) on a Noble Energy well in Garfield County, south of Parachute.
It is my unwavering opinion that both OSHA and U.S. Senator Mark Udall were feckless in fighting for me in my whistleblower action against my former employer, Lightning Wireline.
I submitted irrefutable and detailed documentation to OSHA in Denver, proving I was fired by Lightning Wireline while still under Worker’s Comp physician care, for injuries I received from exposure to H2S on the Noble Energy well pad south of Parachute in 2009. These injuries took place while I was employed by Lightning Wireline working as a crew member on a “swabbing rig.”
OSHA federal statutes require they must reach a determination of all whistleblower claims within 90 (ninety) days after receiving the original complaint. In my case, Denver OSHA bureaucrats dragged their feet for over one year. Without a decision and out of frustration, and after numerous unanswered emails to OSHA in Denver seeking a resolution to my whistleblower claim, I contacted by email Dr. David Michaels, the federal director of OSHA in Washington, D.C. In other words, after one year of waiting for a decision that is required by federal statutes to take place within 90 days, I went over the heads of the Denver OSHA bureaucrats and tattled to their boss about their negligent sloth. This really pissed-off the Denver OSHA bureaucrats and the issue went on and on.
Finally in desperation; I contacted Senator Udall for help and they kicked the can down the road until December 2011, and then informed me the OSHA ruling stated I was laid-off with all of the Rifle personnel and that I was not fired for blowing the whistle to OSHA. However, the layoffs at the Rifle Lightning Wireline unit took place two months after I was fired. Most importantly is that Udall did not send any staff to OSHA to review my file and see for themselves the irrefutable documentation of my firing and compare the dates of the Rifle layoff’s two months later. From my perspective, Udall should have easily seen that OSHA was in violation of federal statutes (90 days) and because of those statutory violations by OSHA, Udall should have acted much more as an advocate for my position and claims. When OSHA came back with the “was laid off with the rest of the Rifle personnel”, I wanted to be able to rebut that claim through Udall’s office and Udall did nothing. My case was simply swept under the rug by Udall and OSHA. My employer Lightning Wireline walked for a few thousands of dollars in OSHA penalties for violations of five serious health regulations such as no respirators or proper H2S training. It was a classic hand-slap by OSHA.
At least today in 2012, all of the gas well workers throughout Colorado now wear H2S detection monitors. This was the positive side of me being fired for reporting the H2S violations to OSHA. I was fired and blackballed from the industry, yet today, because of what I did in blowing the whistle to OSHA, and the hard-hitting newspaper reporting by the Post Independent and the Grand Junction Sentinel, all gas well workers in Colorado are issued gas detection monitors and are being given the proper H2S worker safety training.
For the public record, this is my advice to Colorado gas field workers:
Don’t be naive and think that if you report deadly workplace conditions to OSHA in Denver that the OSHA bureaucrats will protect you. And if you think that Senator Udall will step up and be a stand-up-guy and help you after OSHA fails you, think again. Udall and his staff are members of the same federal bureaucracy and anyone who dares to challenge the system will be swept away. Remember they call us (gas well workers) “well field trash.” You are alone out there and neither the energy company you work for, nor the government will protect you if you become injured and seek relief and restitution. The only solution is to watch each others back and be extra safe at all times and hopefully return home safe to your families.