Auditors lambaste Utah’s environmental and safety oversight of oil and gas wells.

November 26, 2019

A scathing legislative audit has concluded Utah’s oil and gas program has let industry skirt environmental regulations, allowing cases of noncompliance to go unresolved for years, dilapidated wells to go without timely inspections and inadequate bonding to put taxpayers on the hook for at least $1 million in reclamation costs according to a November 19, 2019 Salt Lake Tribune report.

The audit, released November 19th, said the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) could not document a single fine it has ever levied on an oil and gas operator — despite dozens of instances in which standards were violated, sometimes resulting in environmental damage.

“Twenty-four years without a fine? Are you kidding me?” Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said Tuesday at a meeting of the Utah Legislative Audit Subcommittee, where auditors presented the report. “Someone is not taking care of business.”

An arm of the Department of Natural Resources, DOGM regulates oil and gas exploration and production in Utah, processing drilling permits and inspecting wells. The oil and gas program’s mission is not only to promote the development of Utah’s resources, but also “maintain sound, regulatory oversight to ensure environmentally acceptable activities.”

It was this enforcement side that auditors found lacking in their 51-page report. For example, DOGM failed to prioritize inspections, keep records according to agency policy and resolve issues of noncompliance within a required 30-day time frame, instead taking on average two years, Luscher said.

Report finding topics include:

  • Non-compliant Issues Are Not Resolved in A Timely Manner
  • Environmental Hazards May Have Been Prevented with Increased Oversight
  • Inspections Do Not Follow Program Policy
  • Record Keeping Is Not Consistent with Policy
  • The Program Should Enforce Compliance in Accordance with Statute

In an official written response, DOGM Director John Baza and DNR Executive Director Brian Steed agreed the oil and gas program must bolster its “culture of compliance.” To that end, it already had reduced its backlog of noncompliance issues from 105 to 33 unresolved cases.

What this means to you
A legislative audit has concluded Utah’s oil and gas program has let industry skirt environmental regulations, allowing cases of noncompliance to go unresolved for years, dilapidated wells to go without timely inspections. The agency has gone 24 years without issuing a fine.

MIRATCH can help
Contact MIRATECH for oil and gas stationary engine compliance in Utah.