Does the oil and gas industry learn from its mistakes?

The oil and gas industry has said that it learns from its mistakes, and makes sure they don't happen again.

An article in yesterday's Scranton Times-Tribune reports that--in the first five months of 2011 alone--the industry has violated casing and cementing rules 47 times. With news like that, it is hard to believe that anyone is learning any lessons, or even paying attention.

The article also reports that the industry neglected to fully investigate the geology of northeast Pennsylvania before drilling there, even though the area is a geologically complex system with extensive natural fractures and faults. The state of Pennsylvania has found that natural gas operations in this region are responsible for the contaminated drinking water of dozens of families.

Faulty cementing and casing are extremely dangerous and can lead to groundwater contamination, blow-outs, and other catastrophes. How is industry allowed to get away with violating the rules so many times? Are inspectors on site at the wrong times? Or are penalties too weak for industry to care? And I wonder what happens to the workers who violate the rules -- are there any incentives for them to do things right the next time? 

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