According to a report published by environmental watch group Earthworks, state regulators across the nation are placing Americans at risk by failing to properly inspect oil and gas wells. The report, titled Breaking All the Rules, examined regulatory data collected in six states: Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The Earthworks research report claims most states do not have the resources or equipment necessary to adequately inspect every active oil and gas well within the state on a regular basis. For example, Pennsylvania guidelines suggest each active oil and gas well should be inspected five times per year. Instead, 91 percent of active wells were not inspected in 2010. According to the report, that means about 82,000 oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania were not examined by state regulators that year. In Colorado, 15 state inspectors were reportedly tasked with inspecting more than 16,000 wells in 2010. In New Mexico, 12 inspectors allegedly conducted a total of 20,780 reviews during the same year.
The report states oil and gas well safety violations are also poorly tracked. In both New Mexico and Colorado, comprehensive violation information is not available to the public. Instead, data is reportedly maintained on a well-by-well basis. Additionally, inspectors are reportedly free to determine whether an unsatisfactory well merits a violation. The group contends that companies who fail to adhere to health, safety, and environmental rules are rarely punished.
In the State of Texas, inspectors purportedly conducted more than 118,000 inspections and noted almost 56,000 violations in fiscal year 2012. Still, Earthworks maintains that action against oil and gas well operators is frequently deferred and financial penalties are often small. Patrick Creighton, a spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an oil and gas production company consortium, called the Earthworks report into question. According to Creighton, the report is false and contrary to publicly available facts. He alleged Earthworks published the report in an effort to spread fear about the safety of the oil and gas industry.
Oil and gas workers are placed at risk whenever an oil company fails to adhere to proper safety regulations. Oil and well drilling accidents can be extremely complicated and the process for obtaining damages for any resulting injuries is often tough to navigate. If you or a family member was hurt as a result of an oil and gas company’s negligence, you should speak with a skilled oil and gas accident attorney as soon as possible.