Federal investigators from the Bureau of Land Management are so overwhelmed with inspections that they do not check 40 percent of oil and gas wells that are at a high risk for pollution. Only half of wells on federal and Indian reservation lands in Western states including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming were checked. “The current rate of inspections is simply not acceptable to us,” says the bureau’s deputy director.
Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or 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.
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.
“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 the BLM’s deputy director, Linda Lance.
The agency oversees 100,000 oil and gas wells on public lands, 3,486 of which received the high priority designation.
Lance said BLM field managers are making judgment calls to minimize the risk of potential harm to surrounding communities. The agency also is reviewing whether it needs to slow down the pace of permits to ensure public safety.
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