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December 20, 2011

Who Regulates the Regulators?

E&E's Greenwire took a look at oil and gas commissions, and the people who serve on them, and discovered that in drill-heavy states, commissioners oftentimes have direct ties to the very industries that they're supposed to regulate and monitor:

Robert Finne was talking with a friend about the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission earlier this year when they both started wondering, "Who are these people?" So they wrote to the commission and asked. Finne, a critic of gas drilling in the Fayetteville Shale, was surprised to learn that most of the commissioners owned oil and gas drilling companies.

"I knew the cards were stacked against us, but I had no idea how badly," Finne said. Five of the nine members of the appointed commission have their own drilling companies. Two others are officers of oil and gas companies.

Such ties are common among oil and gas officials, according to review of state records and other documents by Greenwire.

More than 40 percent of officials regulating oil and gas production in the top drilling states, records show, come from the industry they are charged with policing. It is a degree of self-regulation enjoyed by few other industries, if any. And it heightens suspicion among critics of the nation's drilling boom that companies are allowed to damage the environment with impunity.

Read the rest of the analysis.

-- Brian Foley

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