Study is critical of some western states enforcement of oil and gas regulations



When it comes to enforcement of oil and gas regulations in western states, Colorado is best and Utah worst according to a new study released by the group Center for Western Priorities.

This new analysis by the Center for Western Priorities finds that many Western state oil and gas enforcement programs are at times understaffed, leading to low inspection rates. Few states issue financial penalties that are adequate to ensure oil and gas companies are complying with regulations, with some states issuing no financial penalties at all.

In total, Western state oil and gas enforcement programs only collected $5.5 million from 62 fines in 2018, with more than 95 percent of that value assessed in Colorado. Critically, state enforcement programs often lack transparency, leaving the public in the dark. While some states have improved in recent years, decades of studies have shown that most states face chronic problems when enforcing oil and gas regulations.

Looking across states, Utah has historically had the worst enforcement, while Wyoming and New Mexico are in the process of improving programs. Colorado, Montana, and Nevada have some of the stronger oil and gas enforcement programs, although they have opportunities to improve, according to the Center.

Enforcing environmental and safety regulations is especially critical as the coronavirus pandemic intersects with market forces to send oil prices tumbling. With widespread operations and crashing oil prices, companies are looking to cut costs, and many face the prospect of bankruptcy. With low financial consequences for violations, many companies may see noncompliance as a cheaper option than correctly monitoring their operations or shutting down wells.

Click here to view study by the Center.

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