A disturbing story from EnergyWire (paywall) by former Denver Post reporter Mike Soraghan highlights the problem with the fallacy that the oil and gas industry can regulate itself:
New Mexico oil and gas regulators haven't fined a single driller for violations this year. They didn't last year, either. Or the year before that.
That's not for a lack of problems at well sites. Since 2010, inspectors recorded more than 3,600 violations. [Pols Emphasis]
Instead, it's because the state Oil Conservation Division hasn't had the authority to levy fines since March 2009. So when inspectors find a problem, there's not much they can do except ask the driller to fix it.
'We play a lot of poker,' explained Daniel Sanchez, the agency's chief of enforcement.
Colorado's regulations on oil and gas aren't as completely vacant as those in New Mexico, but they're about as toothless as your great-grandmother. As of October 21, there had been 328 oil and gas spills in Colorado — 328 — which is well more than one per day. Proponents of widespread oil and gas drilling will say that "accidents happen," but at what point do we step in and do something about companies who keep producing "accidents"?