Here is this week's press release from Earthworks and Ohio groups: the Sierra Club, the Buckeye Foreest Council, the People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice:
Sep 25th, Lake County, OH and Washington, D.C
. -- In association with Ohio groups, national resource extraction watchdog Earthworks today released an unprecedented study, Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulation
revealing that states across the country fail to enforce their oil and gas development regulations.
The one-year, in-depth examination of enforcement data and practices -- in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, New Mexico and Colorado -- also includes interviews with ex-industry and state agency employees.
“Ohio’s enforcement of state oil and gas rules is largely broken,” said Earthworks’ Senior Staff Attorney Bruce Baizel.Â He continued, “In Ohio and across the country, public health and safety are at risk because states are failing to uphold the rule of law. Until Ohio can guarantee they are adequately enforcing their own rules on an ongoing basis, the state must not permit new drilling.”
As recounted in the separate Ohio-specific analysis
, failure to enforce oil and gas regulations means that Ohio is not seeking, documenting, sanctioning, deterring, and cleaning up problems associated with irresponsible oil and gas operations such as chemical spills, equipment failure, accidents, and discharges into drinking water supplies
Among the study’s findings --
- More than 90% of all active oil and gas wells in Ohio go uninspected each year: more than 58,000 wells.
- Companies that are found in violation of regulations are rarely penalized: even as drilling and violations are increasing, penalties are decreasing -- from 55 in penalized violations in 2008 to 29 in 2011.
- Penalties are so weak that it is cheaper for violators to pay the penalty than comply with the law: the total value of financial penalties in Ohio is less than the value of the gas contained in the average Marcellus gas well.
"Whether it's drilling fumes sending kids in my neighborhood to the hospital, or a spill in the middle of a playground, Ohio regulators apparently can't be bothered to issue a violation to irresponsible operators," said Kari Matsko, Director People's Oil & Gas Collaborative - Ohio. She continued, "I wish I could say this report was a surprise, but it's not. People living with drilling in Ohio have known for years that there's no real state enforcement."
Drawn from both the data analysis and the stakeholder interviews, the report makes numerous common sense policy and regulatory recommendations to address the enforcement crisis, including --
- Increasing inspection/enforcement resources until they meet a systematically and transparently developed minimum;
- Establish binding criteria to ensure enforcement actions and penalties are consistently applied;
- Formalizing the public’s role in enforcement, including sharing information with the public and allowing citizen suits.
“This report shows that the industry’s claim that ‘oil and gas development doesn’t threaten public health’ is a fraud,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill. She continued, “Until common sense changes are implemented, states must refuse to issue new drilling permits. ”
Reports and background info: