Blog Archive

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Texas does not enforce oil and gas regulations. State enforcement data shows 296,000 active Texas wells go uninspected

Bruce Baizel, Earthworks, 970-259-3353x2
Sharon Wilson, Earthworks, 940-389-1622
Dan Boggs, Gardendale Accountability Project, 432-230-1523

Air Alliance Houston * Clean Water Action Texas * Downwinders At Risk * Environment Texas * Gardendale Accountability Project * Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance * North Central Texas Communities Alliance * Public Citizen Texas * Safe Fracking Coalition * Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter * Texas Drought Project * Westchester Association of Homeowners
New research reveals Texas does not
enforce oil and gas regulations
State enforcement data shows 296,000 active Texas wells go uninspected,
financial penalties total less than the value of one well
Sep 25th, Washington, D.C. -- In association with twelve Texas 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 Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Mexico and Colorado -- also includes interviews with ex-industry and state agency employees.
"Texas's enforcement of state oil and gas rules is broken," said Earthworks' Senior Staff Attorney Bruce Baizel. He continued, "In Texas and across the country, public health and safety are at risk because states are failing to uphold the rule of law. Until Texas 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 Texas-specific analysis, failure to enforce oil and gas regulations means that Texas 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 --
  • 296,000 active oil and gas wells in Texas were uninspected in 2011.
  • Companies that are found in violation of regulations are rarely penalized: in 2012, only two percent of violations have been penalized to date.
  • 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 Texas in 2009 was less than the value of the gas contained in a newly drilled gas well.
“This report underscores what landowners all over Texas already know,” said Dan Boggs, president of Gardendale Accountability Project. He continued, “The impotence by design of TCEQ and the Railroad Commission allows oil and gas companies to ignore the sparse guidelines already in existence.  Legislators must end their dereliction of duty and reform TCEQ and the Railroad Commission now.”
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
  • Clarifying and updating rules so inspectors, companies, and the public know when operators are in violation, and the consequences;
  • 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. ”
More contacts:
Environment Texas, Luke Metzger,
Public Citizen, Tom "Smitty" Smith,
Earthworks, and its Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions.
Twitter: earthworksrocks
Facebook: earthworksaction

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