WASHINGTON -- A new report from the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council has analyzed the data on spills and other violations at oil and gas wells across the country. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the report is how little data the group was able to turn up.
Based on NRDC's evaluation of dozens of state databases, only three states -- West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado -- have easily accessible, publicly available data on spills and other violations. That's three states out of 36 that have active oil and gas development.
"We looked at 36 states, and there are only three states where it would be easy for a member of the public to sit down at their computer and get some information about a company's compliance record," said report co-author Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at NRDC.
There are other states where citizens can file requests for data, but these three are the only ones where the information proved relatively easy to access, the group said.
Even among these three states, it turned out there was some inconsistency in the types of data available. Colorado's database isn't searchable, nor does it include descriptions of any violations. Pennsylvania and West Virginia both organized their violation data in ways that NRDC called "overly vague." West Virginia's database for spills, for example, lists the names of affected streams, but doesn't describe the extent of any potential damage. Colorado, meanwhile, lists how far each incident occurred from drinking-water sources and notes whether groundwater or surface water was affected, but it doesn't name any of the bodies of water in question. The laws about what constitutes a violation also differ for each state. Read more