CSB congratulates Forrest County, MS, for passing ordinance requiring security measures around oil and gas sites
Volume 25 Fall
The CSB issues the following statement from CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso:
"Yesterday (Sept. 9) the Board of Supervisors of Forrest County, Mississippi, passed an ordinance requiring critical security measures, including fencing and signage, be placed around hazardous oil sites. I congratulate the Forrest County supervisors for taking this vital step in protecting human lives, particularly those of teenagers and young adults who like to hang out at these sites in rural areas.
“The Board’s action today means positive action will result from the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Wade White and 16-year-old Devon Byrd who were killed on October 31, 2009, when a natural gas condensate tank, located in a clearing in the woods near the home of one of the boys in the town of Carnes, Mississippi, suddenly exploded. “It is my hope that authorities throughout Mississippi and other states with similar oil sites take this kind of action which will save lives.”
A report issued by the county’s emergency management office in July 2010 stated there were 119 oil and gas sites in the county. Of these, only a small percentage were fenced.
According to the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, the ordinance requires the following in and around oil sites:
· Continuous fencing five feet high, topped with one strand of barbed wire. The distance of the fencing from the tanks will be determined by the county fire marshal.
· Each gate must be marked with a sign warning that the facility is an oil and gas site, stating it is a “no smoking” area, and containing the name of the site licensee and permit holder, the company’s 24/7 emergency phone number, the emergency 911 address, and the number of the county sheriff. Other signs must be posted along the fencing at intervals to be determined by the fire marshal.
· Vehicle or pedestrian gates must be locked as well as any “door, hatch, ladder, airway, stairwell, or similar device controlling access to any improvement associated with the facility.”
The ordinance also states that its passage does excuse any oil site licensee or permit holder to fail to install or maintain any other safety feature at any oil and gas facility as may be required or indicated in a law or industry standard.
The law is scheduled to take effect 90 days from the date the ordinance is finalized by requirements supplied by the fire marshal of the county.
On April 13, 2010, the CSB Board urged oil and gas production companies, state legislatures, and regulators to ensure that oil and gas tank sites are properly secured and have appropriate warning signs to discourage entry. The Board also urged parents and teachers to educate teens about the potentially deadly risk from these sites.
On August 19, 2010, at an informal legislative hearing in Jackson, Mississippi, the CSB’s Chairman Moure-Eraso called on Mississippi legislators and officials to increase safeguards at the oil and gas sites across the state.
Dr. Moure-Eraso pointed out that the CSB has found accidents have occurred at rural oil and gas sites in states across the country, killing and injuring children, teenagers, and young adults. These individuals were seemingly unaware of the significant explosion and fire hazards at oil and gas production well and storage sites.
According to a CSB investigation, 26 similar accidents at oil and gas sites resulted in 44 fatalities among teenagers and young adults between 1983 and 2010. The Board found that since 2003 alone, oil and gas site explosions caused 16 deaths to members of the public, all less than 25 years old. A 2003 explosion in Long Lake, Texas, killed four teenagers; a 2005 explosion in Ripley, Oklahoma, killed a 19-year old man and a 20-year-old man; a 2007 explosion in Mercedes, Texas, killed three teenagers; and a 2007 explosion in Routt National Forest, Colorado, killed two teenagers.
Many explosions reportedly occurred when victims inadvertently brought a cigarette, match, or lighter into contact with vapor from storage tanks. The CSB convened a task force to look into state and federal rules and regulations governing the safety and security of oil and gas production sites. A draft report and recommendations from the task force will be considered by the board this fall.
At a news conference and public meeting in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 13, 2010, the CSB released the safety video “No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Well Sites,” which is aimed at educating young people on the hazards of socializing at the sites, a popular though sometimes deadly pastime among teenagers and young adults in rural areas.
Chairman Moure-Eraso said at the hearing in Jackson, “The CSB encourages the state of Mississippi to be a champion of oil site safety for the rest of the country. I encourage the oil and gas industry, state legislatures, and federal and state regulators to learn from these tragedies and to take immediate action. The lives of too many young people are being lost when they could be easily saved by securing the oil sites with fences and warning signs.”