"In Texas, 96 percent of 80,000 violations in 2009 resulted in no enforcement action. West Virginia, a state with 56,000 wells, issued 19 penalties last year. And Wyoming, the center of Rocky Mountain energy, collected $15,500 in fines in 2010. Pennsylvania, the most aggressive about fining violators, sought penalties for more than a quarter of the violations found last year. It levied fines for 4 percent of the violations, with the penalties totaling $3.7 million. The largest of those was a $900,000 fine against a drilling company that contaminated the water of 16 homes. That was less than the profit the company makes in three hours." And some states, he writes, don't keep track of enforcement data so no one knows the companies that are repeat violators.
The Energy Information Administration reports that natural-gas drilling grew 50 percent per year from 2006 to 2010. Regulation is left to "a patchwork of state agencies," whose approach, resources and assertiveness are very different from state to state, Soraghan reports. The industry and its regulators tell Congress the agencies are effectively doing their job, and Congress "largely takes them at their word," Soraghan writes. The industry also dismisses suggestions for more regulation. (Read more)