The Department of Conservation’s Renewal Plan has sharpened the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources’ (DOGGR) focus on preventing damage to life, health, property, and natural resources. Recently approved legislation and funding for staff, in addition to some of the strongest regulations in the nation, have significantly strengthened DOGGR’s authority and created a new Office of Enforcement to enhance existing enforcement efforts and ensure industry operators comply with requirements.
The Office of Enforcement’s role is to work closely with DOGGR staff to identify, verify, and take enforcement actions to bring violators back into compliance with the law. Violations can range from minor issues such as missing records to more significant issues such as failing to perform safety equipment tests, spills, or falsifying records. Enforcement and DOGGR staff will assess evidence and the severity of the impacts, and, as appropriate, seek civil or criminal action that can result in fines or jail time, respectively. Depending on the severity of the violation, an operator can be assessed up to $25,000 per day per incident (geothermal violations are limited to $5,000 per day).
Fines collected from oil and gas operators will go into an Oil and Gas Environmental Remediation Account for resolving impacts caused by noncompliance. The State Oil and Gas Supervisor also has the option of allowing operators to spend up to 50 percent of fines on supplemental environmental projects (known as SEPs) to benefit communities impacted by oil and gas production.
The enforcement staff consists of a senior oil and gas engineer, several associate oil and gas engineers, two attorneys, and a legal assistant.
An upcoming addition to the Well Statewide Tracking and Reporting (WellSTAR) online database system will make most well operational data and documents available (with the exception of confidential wells and information precluded for legal reasons) to the public. The data may include compliance and incident reports, and complaints. Public users will also have the option of submitting a complaint about a well operation.