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Government report accuses federal agency of lax oversight of oil, gas wells

May 13, 2014
KEYWORDS oil & gas
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oil well <photocredit>Huyangshu/iStockphoto/Thinkstock</photocredit>

According to a new report by the Government Accountability Office, obtained by the Associated Press in advance of its official release, the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has neglected its duties in overseeing oil and gas wells, including many that are considered high-risk in terms of water and environmental damage they could cause.

The BLM is the regulator that is supposed to oversee the way in which oil and gas wells are drilled, as well as to control production standards, but the report found that the agency has failed to inspect thousands of wells in recent years. The biggest problem, according to the Government Accountability Office, is the lack of complete monitoring data and the outdated policies currently being implemented.

The report examined oil and gas wells in 14 of the most-intensively drilled states, including California, New Mexico, Louisiana, Colorado, West Virginia, Texas, South and North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Oklahoma. Of the 3,702 wells drilled between 2009 and 2012 that were considered "high priority," BLM inspectors failed to examine more than 2,100. High-priority wells are those that pose an increased risk of causing damage by contaminating water resources nearby or that raise other environmental concerns, the Associated Press noted.

Meanwhile, the BLM is still to determine whether 1,784 wells should be classified as high priority. The agency was also found to have failed to cooperate with state agencies in New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah, putting the environment and public health under potential threat of contamination, the report concluded.

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