Many new oil and gas wells escape federal oversight
NEW CASTLE, Colo. — Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests, fragile watersheds or areas otherwise identified as higher pollution risks escape federal inspection, unchecked by an agency struggling to keep pace with America's drilling boom, according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks.
Roughly half or more of wells on federal and Indian lands were not checked in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, despite potential harm that has led to efforts in some communities to ban new drilling.
In New Castle, a tiny Colorado River valley community, homeowners expressed chagrin at the large number of uninspected wells, many on federal land, that dot the steep hillsides and rocky landscape. Water is a precious commodity in this Colorado town, and some residents worry about the potential health hazards of possible leaks from wells and drilling.
“Nobody wants to live by an oil rig. We surely didn't want to,” said Joann Jaramillo, 54.
About 250 yards up the hill from Jaramillo's home, on land that was a dormant gravel pit when she bought the house eight years ago, is an active drilling operation that runs every day from 7 a.m. to as late as 10:30 p.m. Jaramillo said the drilling began about three years ago.
Even if the wells were inspected, she questioned whether that would ensure their safety. She said many view the oil and gas industry as self-policing and nontransparent.
“Who are they going to report to?” she asked.
Government data obtained by the AP point to the federal Bureau of Land Management as so overwhelmed by a boom in a new drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that it has been unable to keep up with inspections of some of the highest-priority wells. That's an agency designation based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental and safety issues.
“No one would have predicted the incredible boom of drilling on federal lands, and the number of wells we've been asked to process,” said BLM's deputy director, Linda Lance.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 men arrested in 1984 rape, killing of girl, 14
- Oklahoma execution postponed over drug issue
- California vineyards skip irrigation amid drought
- W.Va. native killed as C-130 transport plane crashes in Afghanistan
- Secret Service Director Clancy revises account of Chaffetz job bid info
- Double whammy for dinosaurs: Death from above, below