Study: Pennsylvania does not enforce oil and gas regulations

Ambridge Reservoir threatened by Chesapeake Energy, the biggest violator of DEP regulations in the state.

Clean Air Council PA * Clean Water Action PA * Delaware Riverkeeper Network * Mountain Watershed Association * PennEnvironment * Sierra Club PA Chapter

New research reveals Pennsylvania does not
enforce oil and gas regulations

State enforcement data shows more than 85% of active PA wells go uninspected, discovered violations go increasingly unpunished, repeat violators undeterred
Sep 25th, Washington, D.C. — In association with six Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, New York, New Mexico and Colorado — also includes interviews with ex-industry and state agency employees.
“Pennsylvania’s enforcement of state oil and gas rules is broken,” said Earthworks’ Senior Staff Attorney Bruce Baizel. He continued, “In Pennsylvania and across the country, public health and safety are at risk because states are failing to uphold the rule of law. Until Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania-specific analysis, failure to enforce oil and gas regulations means that Pennsylvania 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 85% of all active oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania go uninspected each year: 66,000 wells.
  • Rule violators are rarely punished, even more rarely of late: on average only 20% of violators have been penalized in 2012, down from 24% in 2011.
  • Worst violators are getting worse: effective regulatory enforcement would stop repeat violators. In Pennsylvania, repeat violations are increasing.

“Many households here started having problems with their water and air after drilling began, but it’s been impossible to get answers from the state DEP about what’s gone wrong and what they plan to do about it,” says Janet McIntyre of Conoquenessing Township. “It seems like the only time DEP shows up to check on sites is when someone calls with a complaint. DEP is a public agency, but we’ve been left on our own to deal with the loss of water or drinking water and unexplained health problems.”
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. ”
Pennsylvania DEP: Inadequate enforcement means irresponsible oil and gas development (Summary of Pennsylvania-focused results and recommendations)
More contacts:
Clean Air Council, Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., 215-567-4004 ext. 116
Clean Water Action – PA, Steve Hvozdovich 412-765-3053 x210
Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Tracy Carluccio, 215-369-1188 x104
Mountain Watershed Association, Beverly Braverman, 724-455-4200
PennEnvironment, Erika Staaf, 412-521-0943
Sierra Club – PA Chapter, Jeff Schmidt, 717-232-0101
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.

One thought on “Study: Pennsylvania does not enforce oil and gas regulations”

  1. When I met with the Pa Legislature in May, It was shown to them from the PaDEP records that the wells leaked and that self regulation does NOT work. They never blinked an eye. I showed where 186 families were publically listed as injured by fracking . All that was said to me was Mr.Schmetzer, are you going to read all 186? Publically they don’t care. This is where corporate dollars has bought our government. It is more powerful than the people. We have LOST our Democracy. The people have to be stronger than the corporations that are the Robber Barrons. UNITE!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s