Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Worker believes cancer caused by fracking fluids

Many people feel that oil and gas development will benefit the individual counties in which it takes place because everybody needs work these days. In areas where drilling is common, residents often say that the labor force is imported from other locations. Either way, we need to closely examine what it means to work for the oil and gas industry and decide if those jobs are really worth it.

Worker believes cancer caused by fracking fluids
By Dennis Webb
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Rifle resident Jose Lara, 42, began working for Rain for Rent about a half-dozen years ago, his job required climbing inside tanks to power-wash them after they’d been emptied of hydraulic fracturing fluids used in area oil and gas wells.

At times, Lara said, the stench was overpowering.

“It’s nasty inside the tanks, and sometimes I needed to run outside,” he recalled.

Lara sought fresh air to combat the dizziness he said he and other workers experienced. Now he’s undergoing chemotherapy and other treatment to fight incurable pancreatic and liver cancer that he believes are a result of working around the fracking fluids.

Lara, who is married and has four children from ages 6 to 17, also is in the preliminary investigative stages of filing a lawsuit against several companies providing local fracking services.

Through his attorney, Paul Gertz, Lara is seeking to be allowed to give a pre-lawsuit deposition to preserve his videotaped testimony. The purpose would be to enable a jury to view the testimony if a suit Gertz is preparing to file for Lara and his family goes to trial after Lara has died.

Lara was diagnosed in late December, and people with his condition typically live only six months to a year after their diagnosis, his petition states.

If a judge approves what’s called a petition to perpetuate testimony, potential targets of the product liability suit also would have the chance to cross-examine Lara.

At least two of the companies named have filed responses denying responsibility for Lara’s cancer.

Lara also is pursuing a workers’ compensation claim against Rain for Rent. He said he isn’t blaming his employer but is trying to act on behalf of his family and his fellow workers. He said he would like to see companies do fracturing “without the bad chemicals.”

He also wants companies to have to make their fracturing fluids’ contents public for the benefit of workers.

A bill proposed by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, both Colorado Democrats, and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., would mandate the contents’ disclosure.

The energy industry says fracking fluids consist mostly of water and sand, with only small amounts of other additives. Fracturing companies generally consider their fluids’ formulas to be proprietary information.

Gertz said not knowing what Lara was exposed to makes suing over his cancer more of a challenge.

“It’s hard for us to make a definite link because the companies have been so secretive about what’s in the fracking liquids,” he said. More>>>