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US govt failed to inspect ‘high risk’ oil & gas wells

Published time: May 12, 2014 08:34
Edited time: May 12, 2014 09:26
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

The US government has neglected to inspect thousands of oil and natural gas wells that pose a potential threat to the environment, a report has revealed. An investigation has uncovered outdated technologies still in use and lax safety regulations.

A report by the Government Accountability Office, obtained by The Associated Press before its release, has shed light on multiple oversights in the gas and oil industry. Investigators highlighted that the poor oversight of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was at the root of the problem.

The body is supposed to oversee gas and oil wells across the United States, but this latest report revealed it has neglected to do so in thousands of cases, fueling fears of substantial environmental damage. Investigators looked at oil and gas wells in California, New Mexico, Louisiana, Colorado, Arkansas, Wyoming, West Virginia, Utah, Texas, South and North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Oklahoma.

At more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that had been categorized as “high priority,” inspections had not been carried out, the report revealed. A well is classified as high priority when there is an elevated probability of the contamination of a nearby water supply or other potential environmental concerns.

In addition, by its own admission, the BLM has not modified regulations in line with technological advances in the oil and gas industry, as was required in a 2011 executive order. The BLM said it had not updated guidelines on oil and gas drainage since 1999 or its guidance on mineral trespass since 2003, AP reported.

The organization told AP that the poor oversight was down to limited money and staff.

Environmental agencies expressed their concern at the report and said it had confirmed what they had long suspected.

"This report reaffirms our concern that the government needs to pay attention to the environment and protect public health and drinking sources from the risks of oil and gas development," Amy Mall, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told AP.

The report comes as the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is spreading like wildfire across the US. The process entails blasting fissures in rocks thousands of meters under the earth with water and sand to release trapped deposits of oil and gas.

Environmental groups have called on the US government to introduce stringent regulations to govern the practice of fracking because of its impact on the surrounding environment.

Recent research has shown the fracking process contributes to elevated seismic activity. Scientists attending the Seismological Society of America (SSA) annual meeting last week said the storage of wastewater in wells deep below the Earth’s surface , along with fracking’s other processes, is changing the stress on existing fault lines, which could provoke more earthquakes.

These quakes could be potentially problematic if fracking spreads to areas like Ohio, where the infrastructure is not geared towards even minor earthquakes, scientists say.

Comments (5)


Tehachapi Gal 26.05.2014 19:14

Lee, you fing cretan. Jobs and economy before the lives of people. How about if your kids are piped the contaminated water to drink for the next 30 years. Where do you live and I'll pipe it into your water line, you freak. While we're at it how about putting you and your entire family to live right in the middle of the most contaminated wells then live with it. Make the money all you want because you won't live to enjoy it.


Frank 12.05.2014 12:28

Even if oversight agencies are properly funded the individuals in charge will be bought off by business interests. The final result will be the same. Not until the Democrats and Republicans are thrown out and honest citizens put into power will oversoght be possible.


Lee Schuler 12.05.2014 12:16

Had you thought that this might be just the beginning of a war on oil just like the EPA's war on coal. Something to further destroy the economy and kill more jobs not to mention jacking up the cost of a gallon of gas to $20-30? obama doesn't do anything that will benefit America or Americans, only things that are detrimental!
Any time they use the buzzword "environment&qu ot; the door is opened to the corrupt, American hating EPA and their "secret phony science"!

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