Let’s put this number in perspective.  $273,875  is  about .00003% of Exxon’s profits in the first quarter of 2011.  .00004% of BP’s first quarter profits.  .00009% of Conoco-Phillips’.

It’s also the grand total of fines levied against oil and gas companies for drilling violations on public lands over the course of a decade.

Whether you’re of the “no fracking” ilk, or the “fracking-with-regulation” ilk, this report from Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee should make you sit up a little straighter in your chair.

Among its key findings:

  • In the years between 1998 and 2011, 2,025 safety and drilling violations were issued to 335 companies drilling in 17 states.
  • Of those, 27 percent were classified by Committee staff as “major environmental or safety violations.”
  • About a fifth of those had to do with deficiencies in casing and cementing (in fracking, the first line of defense in protecting water from drilling liquids).
  • Out of all the 2,000+ violations, only six percent resulted in fines, totaling the aforementioned $273,875.
  • Identical violations, sometimes within the same state, resulted in different penalties.

In New Mexico:

  • 438 violations were cited (second in number only to Wyoming), resulting in 23 fines.
  • The largest single fines, all $5,000, were against Apache Corporation for drilling a well without approval, J Cleo Thompson after ignoring 5 previous citations about a blowout preventer, and Chesapeake Operating for failure to get approval to expand a drilling pad.
  • The companies with the highest number of citations include Cog Operating (25), Burlington Resources (24), Devon Energy (23), Energen (20), EOG Resources (19), Williams Production (16), and Conoco-Phillips (16)
  • Apache racked up the biggest total in fines: a whopping $7,000.  Oh, and Apache’s profits last year?  $16 billion.

Not that big fines necessarily equal oversight, but what other indication do we have that it’s happening?

A spokesman with New Mexico Oil and Gas Association says the organization expects to have a response in a few days after looking over the details and substance of the report.


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