New York has been an oil and gas producing state since the 1800s, but compared to other states New York has a relatively small industry. Although the potential for development exists, New York has not yet experienced the boom in shale gas drilling that is occurring in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country,
Inspections occur too infrequently and too irregularly
Fines are inadequate
Lack of data prevents public evaluation of DEC’s oversight
Citizen complaints are not efficiently used to improve oversight
The Path Forward
From top management to field staff, the DEC needs to demonstrate by its enforcement actions that it is serious about protecting New York’s health, safety, and the environment.
DEC should hire more inspectors, at competitive wages, in order to provide consistent and thorough oversight for all active wells in the state. Until enough capacity can be added to at least inspect each producing well once a year DEC should limit the number of new drilling permits.
The DEC needs to develop an inspection and enforcement policy to determine adequate oversight, and refrain from issuing new permits if it fails to meet its oversight responsibilities.
The DEC should track inspections, violations, penalties and enforcement actions and make this information publicly accessible via an on-line database.
Penalties for violations of oil and gas regulations need to be increased, and enforcement actions taken more frequently to deter operators from violating the rules.
The DEC can strengthen relationships with citizens by responding to and resolving all citizen complaints in a timely and thorough manner. DEC should also track and make publicly available information on citizen complaints – such as information on facilities of concern, nature of complaint, DEC follow-up and complaint resolution.