Johnny Flynn: Oil development one of the most dangerous
"There are five generations in our family who worked in the exploration and production of oil and all of us started out as “roughnecks” working rig floors. Our great-grandparents and grandparents had oil production on their Indian allotments in Oklahoma and when those were lost to corruption and destruction of the lands due to oil production and spills, we went to work on the rigs.

My grandfather and his brothers followed the rigs out of Oklahoma into Kansas and I, along with my dad, my brother, and uncles and cousins, followed them offshore in California and the Gulf. My brother cannot count the number of back operations he has endured, and one of my most vivid memories of working offshore in California is seeing a good friend nearly cut in half when we were forced to “hurry up” and offload equipment from the platform (Platform A, by the way, the same one that blew out in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969).

We know that oil exploration and production is more dangerous than coal mining and can be as environmentally destructive as any kind of energy development this side of nuclear power.

My great-grandfather’s allotment of 80 acres in Oklahoma had nine wells drilled on it. They produced over four million barrels of oil and for that windfall he received 22,000 dollars over thirty years and died on public assistance while four wells still pumped. To this day, seventy years after the first well was drilled, his land cannot grow a decent crop of corn.

My dad’s generation, after living through the Great Depression and the sacrifices of World War II, gave life and limb to the dangers of oil drilling. As those wells went dry, they were supposed to be cemented hundreds of feet down the casing to prevent oil and chemicals from leaching into the soil and ground water.

But all around Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, oil company executives instead ordered their workers to hammer fence posts down into open oil wells. Stream beds and ground water have been poisoned by those failures to follow even the most rudimentary of environmental regulations. Kansas and Oklahoma legislatures seem to be more interested in posturing about a woman’s right to choose than the possibility that generations of newborns might be nursing those oilfield toxins from their own mother’s breasts."

Get the Story:
Johnny P. Flynn: Gulf Oil Spill May be “Act of God” (Religion Dispatches 5/5)

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