"There are no national figures on oil and gas spills or enforcement," Mike Soraghan reports for Environment and Energy News. "But where state records are available, they show agencies pursue fines against oil and gas producers in only a small minority of spill cases."
"In Texas, the leading producer of oil and gas, regulators sought enforcement for 2 percent of the 55,000 violations identified by drilling inspectors in the last fiscal year," Soraghan reports. Pennsylvania officials levied fines against 13 percent of cases where inspectors found violations, Wyoming only pursed fines in 10 of 204 recorded spills, while New Mexico hasn't issued a fine in years.
The problem, some say, is that states don't make any attempt to take a hard stance against violators. "Most state oil and gas agencies are charged with promoting drilling in the state, in addition to regulating it," Soraghan writes. "Inspectors and the people who oversee them often come from the oil and gas industry. It's not considered a conflict of interest. It's often a job requirement."
National environmental groups want changes, and are "pushing Congress to give the Environmental Protection Agency more authority to regulate the nation's drilling boom instead of leaving regulation to the states," Soraghan writes. "But under President Obama, EPA has frequently retreated from big drilling enforcement cases." (Read more)