As I read the headline on Wednesday, "Meth fuels oil and gas boom," I found myself rereading it to make sure that I understood it correctly. Then, as I read on, I was disheartened at the picture portrayed of the oil and gas industry. The article put an unfair label on the industry as a whole to get the point across that Craig has a methamphetamine problem. As the daughter of a second generation gas worker, I was intrigued by the article. A Moffat County deputy noticed an increase in the meth problem when the natural gas boom hit in 2000. Whenever any kind of a boom hits, the entire community population expands, not only by the workers of that industry, but in the population as a whole. When a population increases, unfortunately, so do the number of drug cases. Sheriff Buddy Grinstead was quoted as saying "these traveling drill crews seem to have a problem." This evidence is backed by one inmate at our county jail. Yet later in the article, the numbers suggest otherwise. It is stated that the oil and gas industry shows positive drug tests at 4 percent, and the nation's full-time workers at 8 percent. Let's also not forget that there are many jobs (including my own) that simply do not require drug testing for employees. So if the oil and gas numbers lie, then so do the national numbers.
As I mentioned before, my father is a second generation gas worker. He is the manager of a sour gas processing plant in Wyoming and has been in the energy industry since he graduated from high school. I gathered a little insight from him before writing this letter. As a supervisor, it is his job to make sure that his employees are safe and productive. If accidents happen, who do you think takes the brunt of the responsibility? To say that drilling schedules are an incentive for a company to "look the other way" is absurd. Workers' lives are at stake every day in this dangerous field, and one error, drug-related or not, can turn deadly. A drug-related accident or death could cost a company millions of dollars. So why would a company "look the other way" when they could be saving themselves from unnecessary loss and financial ruin? As far as Grinstead's "radical suggestion" for random drug testing ... it's not a radical suggestion at all. The majority of oil and gas companies have strict drug-testing policies already in place. These policies call for immediate dismissal of the employee for a failure or a refusal. Unfortunately, the company's hands are tied, as well. Because of privacy laws, they can not divulge any information from the drug tests to other companies. So I am not surprised that offenders have no trouble getting another job. But, if positive drug tests have dropped from 8 percent to 10 percent all the way down to 4 percent in just two years, then it looks to me as if the companies are taking a proactive approach to controlling this problem.
In addition, the timing of this article could not have been worse. It comes just as our county is preparing for an influx of temporary pipeline workers that will bring thousands of dollars to our local economy. These workers must now face a prejudice from our county officials. What a welcome!
It is true that our community has a methamphetamine problem, and some of those cases are, no doubt, related to the oil and gas industry. But please look at the whole picture. This is a widespread drug that does not discriminate. It crosses the boundaries of age, gender, race, and a wide array of careers.
I applaud the members of C.O.M.A. and their efforts to combat this growing problem in Moffat County.