Are states really up to the task of regulating the current oil and gas drilling boom?

Two years ago I blogged about a blow-out in Wyoming where drilling mud, natural gas, and natural gas condensate erupted up through the ground up to 150 feet away from the well. Eight million cubic feet of explosive methane and vaporized drilling fluids were released into the atmosphere, and drinking water sources and surface soils were contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen.

This blow-out occurred in 2006. What's happened since then? The blow-out contaminated drinking water aquifers above regulatory limits and contaminated private drinking water wells. Sadly, the state of Wyoming has fined the company less than $10,000. Groundwater contamination is being monitored but has not been remediated.

The same company owns another well in the area where there has been inadequate waste handling and lack of proper pit closure and remediation, and toxic chemicals and hydrocarbons have been found in nearby drinking water wells. State agencies have refused a local resident's requests for investigation of contamination found in his drinking water wells and water system.

In Pennsylvania, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, along with U.S. EPA, are investigating health problems reported by residents living near waste pits that have fracking waste and drill cuttings. Water tests have detected nitrate levels in concentrations more than twice as high as allowed by federal drinking water standards in one family's well water. High nitrate levels can cause illness in small children and death in infants. According to news reports, the state Department of Environmental Protection did not find any impacts attributable to oil and gas development in the drinking water of these families. Fortunately the federal agencies have done additional testing.