Overbrook Environment grantee Earthworks is in the news today taking on the safety of oil and gas wells in Colorado. The environmental group released a report calling for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to hire more inspectors and accused the agency of inadequate inspection practices, being unable to keep up with the rate of new wells being drilled and not properly fining companies violating state oil and gas regulations.
It was only March 8 when a contractor for EOG Resources was caught by a field inspector dumping radioactive sand into an unpermitted pit. The inspector was one of only nine employed by COGCC who were keeping tabs on more than 46,835 active oil wells and gas wells in the entire state.
"With 43,000 active wells in Colorado in 2010, and just 15 inspectors in Colorado, each inspector here was responsible for an average of 2,890 active wells - more than twice the number of their Pennsylvania counterparts," the Earthworks report states. "It is nearly impossible for one inspector to visit, let alone carefully inspect 2,890 well sites a year. In 2010, each of COGCC's 15 inspectors performed, on average, 1,082 inspections."
The group is urging Colorado to improve its tracking of violators and improve the transparency and user-friendliness of the COGCC website. They also hope to see increased fines for violators.