Responsible Drilling Alliance

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New Research Reveals Pennsylvania Does Not Enforce Oil And Gas Regulations

JOINT RELEASE: Sep 25, 2012
Bruce Baizel, Earthworks, 970-259-3353 x2
Nadia Steinzor, Earthworks, 315-677-4111
Janet McIntyre, 724-789-9268

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

Full report

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.

Pennsylvania-specific analysis

“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. ”


Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement (executive summary)

Pennsylvania DEP: Inadequate enforcement means irresponsible oil and gas development (Summary of Pennsylvania-focused results and recommendations)

Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement (full report, 125 pages)

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.

Twitter: earthworksrocks
Facebook: earthworksaction

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