Thursday, July 18, 2013


Many mishaps among drillers, but few fines

So she's frustrated that Wyoming officials didn't fine Chesapeake Energy Corp. for an April 2012 blowout near her home outside Douglas, Wyo. The ruptured gas well spewed gas and chemicals for three days, forcing her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.If Kristi Mogen causes a crash on the road, she knows she'll probably get a ticket and have to pay a fine.
"There's no punishment on that. There's nothing," said Mogen, who believes the gas and chemicals released in the spill sickened her family. "They're just going around with business as usual."
It may have surprised Mogen, but it's actually rare for state oil and gas regulators to hit companies with fines after spills and blowouts.
There are no national figures on oil and gas spills or enforcement. But where state records are available, they show agencies pursue fines against oil and gas producers in only a small minority of spill cases.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality pursued water quality fines against 10 producers in 2012, records show, as it recorded 204 oil and gas production spills.
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.
In Pennsylvania, the heart of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling boom, 2012 records show state regulators levied fines in 13 percent of the cases where inspectors found violations.
And in New Mexico, oil and gas regulators haven't issued fines in years.
State oil and gas agencies are the main regulators of the nation's drilling boom. That boom is creating new wealth for oil and gas drillers and some landowners, but it's also leading to more accidents and pollution.
Spills, blowouts and other mishaps rose 17 percent from 2010 to 2012 in states where comparable data was available, an EnergyWire investigation found (EnergyWire, July 8). Drilling activity in those states went up 40 percent.