Monday, November 24, 2014

North Dakota goes easy on oil-patch violations

"A small state that believes in small government, North Dakota took on the oversight of a multibillion-dollar oil industry with a regulatory system built on trust, warnings and second chances," Deborah Sontag and Robert Gebeloff report for The New York Times. Some tidbits:

The state didn't fine "Continental Resources, the most prolific producer in the booming Bakken oil patch," for its first 10 oil-well blowouts. Then it reduced the $75,000 fine to $7,500. "Forgiveness remains embedded" in the Industrial Commission, which levies fines.

"State leaders rarely mention the underside of the boom and do not release even summary statistics about environmental incidents and enforcement measures." The reporters "found that the Industrial Commission wields its power to penalize the industry only as a last resort."

"North Dakota’s oil and gas regulatory setup is highly unusual in that it puts three top elected officials directly in charge of an industry that, through its executives and political action committees, can and does contribute to the officials’ campaigns."

The Times has an interactive map of oil spills in the state. Here's a screenshot (click on image for larger version):

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