A study of 80,000 violations for gas and oil drillers shows that no penalties or fines were levied on 96 percent of them in the state of Texas. If you are wondering why this matters because it is only one state, please keep in mind that Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to be President of the United States, and former Texas governor George Bush was president for two consecutive terms. George Bush was involved in the oil industry to an extent before he became President, and we have more than enough evidence of the role politicians have played in lax enforcement and allowing the petroleum industry to heavily influence the regulatory climate.
Other states also have very low enforcement rates, such as West Virginia which has over 50,000 oil wells, yet issued only 19 penalties last year. (This state also has large coal mining operations that typically don’t receive many penalties either.) Pennsylvania and Wyoming also have not levied many fines, though there are likely enough infractions for them to do so.
This is just one example at the local level, but a woman living in Texas videotaped a strange bubbling hole near her property and uploaded it to YouTube. Exxon was supposed to fix the leak, but later benzene, a carcinogen, was detected in the groundwater over 30 feet below the surface, so it clearly leaked for some time. Exxon reportedly was not penalized for the contamination or for waiting so long to address the problem. Exxon Mobil’s 2010 revenues were $383 billion.
Citizen journalism isn’t likely to make a huge change in the oil industry practices, but it can sometimes hold them accountable when people like us take the time to photograph and videotape the damage they cause and publish it online, because it can become a public relations nightmare.
It also doesn’t appear the federal government is going to force the oil companies to behave, as they believe drilling in the Arctic, where some polar bears live, is a good idea: “Arctic waters would be open to new oil and gas development under an Obama administration proposal that keeps the Pacific and Atlantic coasts off limits to new drilling. The proposal, which outlines offshore oil and gas leasing from 2012 to 2017, omits areas on the West and East coasts that the Bush administration planned to open to drilling. But it also calls for three lease sales off the coast of Alaska in environmentally fragile areas that have become a much contested frontier of energy production.” (Source: LA Times) British Petroleum could be drilling in the Gulf of Mexico again soon as well.
A petroleum industry association official actually said they are doing a good job, “The system is working well from an environmental standpoint.” (Source: EandEPublishing)
Perhaps this oil industry official is unaware of the 250,000 oil spills in U.S. waters documented just in several decades?
Image Credit: Billy Hathorn / Wiki Commons