A new report from the Democratic members of the House Natural Resources Committee has found that federal enforcement of oil and gas rules appears to be almost non-existent. According to the report, from 1998 to 2011, more than two thousand violations were handed out by the U.S. Department of Interior to oil and gas companies drilling on taxpayer-owned lands--some for extremely dangerous action such as failing to install blowout preventers or building unsafe oil and gas wells. But the report found that the total amount of fines issued for these years of violations to more than 300 companies in 17 states was only $273,875, and only 125 (six percent) of all the violations were levied a monetary fine.
In related bad news, PennEnvironment just reported that, with a total of 4,596 Marcellus Shale wells drilled between 2008 and 2011 in Pennsylvania, oil and gas companies accumulated 3,355 violations of environmental laws, with more than seventy percent likely posing a direct threat to the environment.
There are only two conclusions I can draw from this:
1) companies are not putting a priority on obeying the law; and
2) enforcement and penalties are not strong enough to get companies to obey the law.
I wonder what companies are doing to improve their atrocious records. One silver lining is that Pennsylvania has improved the public availability of information on inspections and violations. Colorado's information is readily available on the internet, also. But it should be available in every state, and it's not. Shining a bright spotlight on all these law-breaking actions by oil and gas companies will help reduce violations.