Thursday, September 13, 2012

Few state oil and gas agencies seek help from experts who review programs, suggest changes

There exists a team of oil and gas regulators, industry officials and environmental advocates who offer comprehensive reviews of state oil and gas oversight programs and make recommendations for improvement. It's called State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, but states aren't volunteering their oversight programs for evaluation. It's a predicament for STRONGER, Ellen Gilmer of Energy and Environment News reports.

State oil and gas regulatory officials are feeling pressure from the public and environmentalists to increase regulations on the booming industry, but Gilmer reports agency leaders are leery of STRONGER and the services it provides. They either don't have resources for it, or they fear increased public backlash. STRONGER's latest review was in 2007 in Tennessee. It did evaluate North Carolina's Department of Environmental and Natural Resources this year, but the state doesn't yet have any actual oil or gas wells.

The group has been evaluating hydraulic fracturing in Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania since 2010, but "It's unclear which states will come next or whether checked-off states' evolving regulations merit further review," Gilmer writes. Mississippi officials have never asked for a review. Kansas officials seemed interested, but haven't asked. Gilmer reports that Texas could be a candidate, but officials there are writing new rules that will likely have to be finished before a review is requested. (Read more) Many state oil and gas agencies are dominates by people from the industries they regulate.

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