Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf coast. The flooding killed roughly 1,000 people in Louisiana alone and displaced more than one million people throughout the Gulf region. Last summer, a census study found that New Orleans was still at just 79 percent of its pre-2005 population.
A part of the story that often goes untold is that Hurricane Katrina – and Hurricane Rita a month later – wreaked havoc offshore as well. Katrina alone damaged 100 oil and gas pipelines and destroyed 46 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. When production resumed after a weeks-long hiatus, Rita again brought the Gulf oil industry to a standstill.
Is the Oil Industry Prepared for the Next Big Hurricane?
With nearly 10,000 workers waking up offshore every day and countless more heading out into the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis, hurricanes present a major risk for the individuals who make the Gulf their home away from home. While the oil companies certainly reacted to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some experts warn that their efforts to prevent damage and protect their employees may not be enough.
As evidence, they point to the 2008 hurricane season. That was the year of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, which together destroyed more platforms than Katrina. Experts say that the damage from these and other hurricanes since Katrina show that the oil companies are taking a reactive approach to addressing storm risks. This approach of “waiting for the next failure,” they say, isn’t going to be enough to hold off new devastation when the next major storm arrives.
Risks for Oil and Gas Workers During the 2015 Hurricane Season
While the oil companies undoubtedly take steps to protect their employees by, in many cases, evacuating offshore workers before storms hit, experts still have grave concerns. Due to government regulations that rely on input from oil companies, they say that operators in the Gulf have too much discretion on when to shut down offshore operations and how to prepare for worst-case scenarios. With profits being the driving force behind many decisions affecting workers’ safety, many people are concerned that offshore workers may be in the path of danger, even as 2015’s hurricane season comes to an end.
Unfortunately, the low price of oil isn’t helping the situation. With oil prices only recently bouncing back from a six-year low (and, at around $50 per barrel, nowhere near their $147 all-time high), the oil companies are squeezing their budgets in order to protect their profits. In addition to cutting jobs, the companies that are number crunching can often lead to safety-related cuts as well. According to a professor at UC Berkeley, as reported by NOLA.com, “companies under financial pressure are more likely to take safety risks.” With the 2015 hurricane season upon us, let’s hope that the low price of oil doesn’t lead to the perfect storm.
Morrow & Sheppard LLP | Houston Injury Lawyers
Fortunately, the 2015 hurricane season has been fairly light so far. But, if a major storm hits in the Gulf, offshore workers should be wary of the oil companies they work for making decisions that protect their profits instead of their employees. If you or a loved one suffers serious or fatal injuries in an offshore accident, Morrow & Sheppard LLP is here to help you fight for just compensation. Contact us today to learn more.