North Dakota is the most dangerous state in the country for oil and gas workers. In 2011-2012, there were 75 deaths per 100,000 workers. In the next closest state, West Virginia, there were 37.5 per 100,000 workers. Colorado was lower with 14.2 per 100,000 and Wyoming is a third of the national average with 8.1 deaths per 100,000 workers.
To understand why the oil and gas industry here is so dangerous, you can go to the heart of the boom: Williston, North Dakota.
As the oil and gas industry has grown to employ over half a million oil and gas workers nationwide, the number of fatalities has grown as well. In 2013, 112 oil and gas workers died on the job; the year before, 142. Nationwide, oil and gas workers are still six times more likely to be killed on the job than the average American.
Texas had the most fatalities overall in 2011 and 2012 – 106 – but, according to a new analysis by Inside Energy, North Dakota had the highest fatal injury rate in the country, 75 deaths per 100,000 workers. That's three times higher than the national rate for oil and gas fatalities.
Which raises a question, how bad does it have to get before regulators and elected officials step in and do something?
Governor John Hickenlooper announced the 19 members of a task force whose goal is to address some of the recent controversy around energy development in the state.
The task force will examine land use issues and what role local governments have in regulating oil and gas activities within their boundaries. The creation of a task force is part of an agreement struck by the governor in order to avoid a citizen vote on oil and gas related ballot initiatives during the November 2014 election. The governor and many others were concerned that passage of the ballot initiatives could have extremely negative consequences for the state.