North Dakota oil wells--more blowouts, less safety

A recent article in the Fargo-Moorhead Forum reported that blowouts in North Dakota oil wells are "up significantly" from last year. Blowouts can lead to serious air and water pollution.  

North Dakota has had 23 blowouts in the past 12 months. That sounds like 23 too many to me, especially when the oil and gas industry claims its practices are safe. The state has levied fines on two companies and is still investigating three of the blowouts (18 were considered minor). The article mentions that one of the blowouts being investigated occurred in August, 2012. In general, it shouldn't take the state so long to resolve environmental incidents.

But the state is not alone in dragging its feet. According to the article, after two significant blowouts last December, the oil and gas industry formed a committee to develop best practices, but the committee has not yet finished its work. Is this a joke? The oil and gas industry already has dozens of best practices for well safety; check them out on the industry's website. One is even called "blowout prevention." Do they not know this in North Dakota, or do they not care? What's needed in North Dakota is not an industry committee, but strong rules, strong enforcement, and strong penalties. Only then will the public begin to have some confidence that the regulators are serious about protecting the public interest.