“Have they worked with the surrounding landowners to address concerns that they might have? And generally, if they've cleaned up their mess after an accident, my view is that there isn't a need for penalties,” Lance said.
Even so, it's surprising and disconcerting the company hasn't faced penalties for the dangerous accident that released substantial pollution and affected dozens of people, said Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
“Yeah, accidents will happen, but you still have to pay for them,” she said. “A blowout is a very serious thing, and evacuating people is a very serious thing. And spewing, you know, all sorts of chemicals and drilling muds a great distance off their well pad is a big thing.”
Chesapeake implemented enhanced operating procedures as a result of the blowout, spokeswoman Kelsey Campbell said by email.
She referred to a two-page report the company filed with the commission Oct. 22 that outlined new procedures including double-checking that the wellhead parts that failed are installed correctly.
Commission rules would limit fines against Chesapeake to $5,000 per violation, per day.
The only other Wyoming state agency that fines polluters is the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
However, it lacks jurisdiction in the Chesapeake matter because the blowout happened during drilling.
Department oversight of pollution from oil and gas operations begins after production starts, except when groundwater is involved, agency spokesman Keith Guille said.
The department is satisfied the drilling mud was fully cleaned up, he said.
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Accidents will happen. I mean, you can't prevent every accident that is going to happen. We don't live in a perfect world.”