The issue was originally published in this article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a famously liberal newspaper amidst a sea of conservative Texans. But the evidence provided about the “dark side of the ‘Texas Miracle’”—that is, the oil and gas industry boom in the state—can’t long be ignored or written off as party propaganda. Touted by Governor Rick Perry as miraculous, the economy has indeed been booming, with retracting regulations combined with natural resources making the state enticing for big companies like Toyota to set up shop. The Eagle Ford Shale’s rise in productivity is making millions for some, too. But Texas oil and gas lawyers are confirming what the Star-Telegram reports: it’s not all roses and sunshine.
While the gas flares from fracking in the Permian Basin can be seen from outer space, widely alerting the world to the risks assumed by the business, there is another, more secretive side to the industry that businesses aren’t talking about. In fact, no one is. Texas oil and gas lawyers, as well as some of the employment and personal injury attorneys in Texas, are substantiating the stories heard in the news from former rig and warehouse workers about the way their companies have failed them.
“Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last 10 years, and when Texans are hurt or killed on the job, they have some of the weakest protections and stingiest benefits in the country,” writes Jay Root. Not that Texas doesn’t have a Division of Worker’s Compensation. They do. But Texas is the only state that doesn’t require private employers to carry worker’s comp insurance (or a private equivalent). And again, while most employees who don’t get state regulated worker’s comp plans do get private plans, those are often “crafted to sharply limit employees’ benefits, legal rights and healthcare choices.”
Texas oil and gas lawyers like Mike Hancock can confirm this grim reality. Nearly half of all the employee claims are denied or disputed, and rulings from the Texas Supreme Court (like those handed down by Greg Abbot when he was a justice) make it easier for big business to terminate injured workers without fearing “a state retaliatory-firing lawsuit.” Given the incredibly dangerous nature of work in the oil industry, this means great news for Big Oil, bad news for the workers who labor under them.
For Texans who have no love of government oversight, some arguments are made against requiring employers to comply with too many regulations, contending instead that freedom in the market allows for more growth and wealth. And for so many of the Texas oil and gas lawyers in the field and courts representing both sides of so many injury claims, the decisions lie in the hands of adjudication, not legislation. And that’s fine, too, as long as Texans are willing to foot the bill for the injured workers’ disability claims with the government, public hospital, health service and social benefit use paid for by taxpayers, a harsh reality that ends up feeling very un-Texan-like indeed.