A new study released yesterday by Earthworks, “Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement,” shows that states across the country are failing to enforce their own rules regarding oil and gas development.
The one-year research project examined practices in six states—New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico—and found that hundreds of thousands of wells in those states operate without annual inspections. Further, the study found that when inspections do uncover violations, they frequently go unrecorded or result in few penalties.
Of the six states, Pennsylvania was found to have the worst record in many regards with, for example, 66,000 wells going uninspected each year. That is more than 85 percent of all active wells in the state. Additionally, the study found that only 20 percent of violators were penalized in 2012, a 4 percent drop from the previous year.
These troubling findings highlight the inherent problems with the current regulatory system, and underscore the need for transparency and citizen involvement in enforcement. Public health and environmental safety will continue to be put at risk until these oversights are addressed. Importantly, the study included specific recommendations for fixing some of these issues.
My colleague, Amy Mall, blogged about this and two other important new reports.