Democrats Back Away From Wild Claims About Oil Worker Deaths?

Last week Democrat state Senators George Sinner and Phil Murphy wrote a letter to the editor of the state’s newspapers responding to something I wrote about oil worker deaths here on the blog. In that letter they made some pretty wild claims about oil worker deaths in North Dakota.

“But when we compare just the mining and oil extraction sectors, North Dakota’s job fatality rate shoots up to 104 per 100,000, far exceeding the rate of 15.9 per 100,000 in the same job sectors across the U.S,” they wrote.

Either Sinner and Murphy wanted to correct their embarrassing gaff with the numbers, or the Tribune didn’t want to publish bogus statistics.

The problem, as I pointed out in my response, is that there hasn’t been anywhere near 100,000 oil workers in North Dakota in any given year – not even at the height of the oil boom – nor was there 104 fatalities among oil workers in any given year. In 2013, the year Murphy and Sinner say they’re writing about, there was a maximum of 27,800 oil workers and 12 fatalities according to the BLS.

Even if we extrapolate those numbers out to a per 100,000 rate, they don’t add up to 104 deaths in 2013.

Yesterday Murphy and Sinner’s letter was in the Bismarck Tribune and – surprise! – the stuff about oil worker deaths has been taken out. Now the letter is only about overall worker fatality rates in the state. Here’s the Tribune version, and here’s the version that appeared in the Dickinson Press.

Why the change? I have no idea. Maybe Sinner and Murphy wanted to correct their embarrassing gaff with the numbers. Or maybe the Tribune didn’t want to publish bogus statistics.

Either way, it’s laugh out loud funny that Murphy and Sinner set out to slam me in the state’s opinion pages only to embarrass themselves.

As the Tribune version of the letter stands, they’re basically pointing out that North Dakota’s rate of worker’s death is significantly higher than the national average. That’s not good! But it is worth remembering that North Dakota’s primary industries – agriculture, mining/oil extraction, construction, truck driving – are some of the most dangerous in the nation as well.

Worker safety is an important issue. It shouldn’t be dismissed, but nor should worker deaths be exaggerated by partisan politicians out to score points.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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