The researchers are trying to determine whether the differences are based on factors including geology and population density or institutional factors, such as the makeup of governments. "The effort could introduce more facts to a long-standing argument over the effectiveness of state regulation of oil and gas," E&E News reports. While environmental groups want drillers regulated by federal law, "The oil and gas industry prefers dealing with individual states rather than the federal Environmental Protection Agency," because state agencies aren't charged with "exclusively protecting human health and the environment."
"State laws order most of them to balance regulation with promoting oil and gas development, and they frequently have close ties to the local industry," E&E News reports. A Greenwire review last year found that more than 40 percent of state oil and gas officials come from the oil and gas industry. E&E News reports state agencies were created at a time when environmental protection wasn't a priority, and their main goal was to control production and protect oil from water. (Access to E&E News requires a subscription)