Last week Texas made national news when we learned that Texas has the most drilling but the worst regulation in the nation.
Wilma Subra, MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award winning scientist, President of Subra Corp. and Board Member for EARTHWORKS takes the information a step further with a statistical comparison.
The following information is based on the results of a ProPublica survey of 32 oil and gas producing states and the survey information published in an article entitled “State Oil and Gas Regulators Are Spread Too Thin to Do Their Jobs” by Abrahm Lustgarten on December 30, 2009.
Oil and Gas Wells
Based on the information provided on 25 of the states surveyed, in 2008 Texas had the largest number of total wells, 263,704 wells, of all states surveyed. Oklahoma ranks second with 126,281 wells which are half the number of wells in Texas. Kansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio have 24 to 30 percent of the number of wells in Texas.
In addition to having the largest number of total wells, Texas also has the largest number of new wells drilled in 2008. Texas has four times as many wells drilled in 2008 when compared to Oklahoma and Pennsylvania and 4.8 times as many wells as drilled in Colorado and California.
Louisiana has the largest number of enforcement staff, 185, of any state, while Texas ranks second with 106 enforcement staff and Kansas, third with 90 enforcement staff. Louisiana averages 214 wells per enforcement staff while Texas averages 2,488 wells per enforcement staff. Kansas averages 870 wells per enforcement staff.
- New wells in Texas are up 75%
- Inspection staffing increased 5%
- Enforcement actions increased 6%
- Texas Railroad Commission budget decreased 10%
Texas state auditor’s report
- In the five years between 2001 and 2006 nearly half of the state’s wells hadn’t been inspected.
(It also said regulators’ routine acceptance of gifts from the companies they police raised questions about their objectivity and conflicts of interest, and the commission imposed a $50 limit on gifts as a result.)
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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In Texas, does that equate to a little over ONE hour per well per year of "enforcement" by the RRC if the enforcement officer works a typical 40 hour work week 52 weeks per year with no vacation or holidays? (2080 hours per year)
I sure hope the industry in Texas is voluntarily doing it right in order to not require a great deal of enforcement.
Maybe that is why industry here in Texas often says they aren't required to do their own self inspections. No one at the RRC has the time to follow up to confirm whether they do or not.
So if no one forces them and there is no monetary loss caused by not doing so, it is not in their best interest to inspect anything.
No enforcement action will realistically occur in this situation.
Industry doesn't comply because industry is in it only for the profit. The honor system isn't working here.
Maybe applying the Clean Air and Water Act equally to this industry will.
No real enforcement is possible with these staffing levels.
Each well in Texas gets LESS than an hour per year per agent.
In Louisiana each well gets over a day and in Oklahoma the agent has to inspect around 3 1/2 per week.
So do you believe our superproductive and concerned and conscientious well enforcement agents are zipping around looking at 10 wells a day?
So, how does California still have new wells being drilled, yet they have stricter environmental laws that Texas? Sounds like controlling pollution won't put drillers out of business.
Northern New Mexico Conservation Project says
Even if regulators were really dedicated, there's just no way for drilling to get the oversight that is needed with the across-the-board shortage of inspectors. In response to anonmyous who said, "I sure hope the industry in Texas is voluntarily doing it right in order to not require a great deal of enforcement." I think it's pretty obvious that industry is not doing even a remotely good job in Texas and their idea of doing it "right" is anything that makes a profit, not protecting people's health and water. They won't "do it right" unless they are given no other option.