AP: Strong regulations not enough to prevent drilling problems

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Earlier this week, Earthworks released a report criticizing the inspection practices of New York and other states where drilling is occurring.

But the folks at Earthworks are not the only ones examining New York's record of regulatory enforcement of gas and oil drilling. An Associated Press article published yesterday also calls the state's enforcement efforts into question.

"Annual reports and incident reports prepared by Department of Environmental Conservation staff and reviewed by The Associated Press run counter to the agency’s long-stated assertion that the types of problems reported in other states have been prevented in New York by strong regulations," says the article.

Among the incidents it cites: at a site near Allentown, crude oil was discharged into a stream leading to the Genesee River. The article also emphasizes the problems posed by idle and abandoned wells drilled well before environmental regulations were in place.

The enforcement criticisms will only become more relevant as New York officials near a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in gas-bearing shale formations. Fracking critics including environmentalists and lawmakers have questioned whether the DEC has adequate staff to effective regulate a booming natural gas industry.

The Earthworks report say that in 2010, 76 percent of the state's gas and oil wells went uninspected. And when violations were found, the fines were inadequate, it says.

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