Safeguarding Environment

This has not been a good week for some involved in gas and oil drilling in our area. As we reported, two companies have been fined a total of $350,000 for pollution-related infractions.

Gulfport Energy paid a $250,000 fine levied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which found ground contamination at seven of the firm’s East Ohio well sites. Various fluids from the drilling process had leaked and were not contained by liners placed at well pads for that purpose.

Harch Environmental was fined $100,000 because one of its personnel dumped a load of brine waste from a well over a hill and into a pond at a Belmont County farm.

It does not appear company officials knew about or condoned the violations in either case. Reportedly, Harch crews cleaned up the farm pond spill soon after it occurred. Gulfport is required to clean up contamination at the seven local sites.

Carelessness or outright refusal to follow the rules by company employees and/or subcontractors appears to be a substantial problem in the drilling industry. Someone has to be held accountable.

And, while the fines levied by the ODNR involve substantial amounts of money, they should be considered in the context of how much some firms profit from drilling. Just one of Gulfport’s wells, near Barnesville, was reported to be producing $100,000 a day in revenue earlier this year.

As we have noted several times, companies involved in the gas and oil industry simply must be held accountable for the actions of their employees and subcontractors. Otherwise, they have little or no incentive to insist those working for them comply with the law.

Fines levied against the two companies by the ODNR show the agency is taking a strict approach to safeguarding the environment. Good. The agency should continue policing closely the drillers and others exploiting our region’s gas and oil resources. If fines reported last week do not deter others from damaging the environment, even more severe penalties should be considered.