An oil spill on sensitive public lands is bad. Failing to report and clean up an oil spill is unlawful and deserving of tough penalties. Allowing a company to continue with its negligent ways after its first oil spill, or failing to demand that the culprit restore the public land and compensate taxpayers is government malfeasance.
Hikers in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument discovered oil that had spread over a 4-mile stretch of Little Valley Wash. The spill is the second incident of oil escaping the Upper Valley oil field, operated by Citation Oil and Gas Corp. Bureau of Land Management investigators say this one could be years old and was never reported, as required by law.
What makes the situation even worse is that nobody — oil company or government agency — seems willing to take responsibility. When the federal government grants a lease allowing a private company to enrich itself on the public’s natural resources, the taxpayers should feel confident their representatives are keeping an eye on the drilling. The Upper Valley oil field was leased in 1964 on Dixie National Forest and BLM land that’s about 10 miles west of Escalante.
In this case, it seems nobody’s been watching Citation Oil for some time. Federal agencies say they don’t oversee pipelines that run only on an oil field.
BLM officers discovered oil seeping from the ground in May 2012 near a Citation well and reported it to the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM), according to a database maintained by the state Department of Environmental Quality. There is no indication the company reported that spill.
There are few details in records checked by the Tribune about how the issue was resolved. The DOGM told a reporter it has no jurisdiction over the oil after it leaves the well and referred him to the Dixie National Forest, which has not yet provided information.
The Little Valley Wash hikers took photos of red rocks and vegetation covered in a black substance. An analysis indicates it’s possible the oil oozed into the wash last fall and was carried from the original spill site by flooding. The wash drains into Alvey Wash, which runs through Escalante and into the Escalante River, which, in turn, flows into the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell.
There is no excuse for this kind of negligence, by a private company or state and federal agencies whose mission is to protect public land.
After two spills, neither apparently reported to authorities, this company has proven it cannot be trusted with public land. Its leases should be revoked. Now.
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