“Regulatory Capture” Occurs When Regulatory Agencies Assist, Not Regulate, Industrial Activities

by S. Tom Bond on July 18, 2012

Drilling Rig Lights The Night

New Words from the Japanese Nuclear Disaster Enter the Shale Drilling Vocabulary

The commission set up by Japan’s parliament to study the Fukushima accident came up with a term for the cozy relationship between Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The subduction of the NRA to the TEPCO allowed the accident to happen, it says.

The report states that upgrades needed to fix recognized deficiencies in the plant’s seismic and tsunami resistance were never carried out. They were never required by the government. This was due, the commission’s spokesman said, to “regulatory capture,” characterizing a situation where the regulatory agency acts on behalf of the industry it oversees, instead of representing the public interest.

This is the result, according to the spokesman for the commission, of “reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to sticking with the program; our groupism; and our insularity.” Sound familiar? Nuclear engineers (oil & gas industry engineers?) were cut off from the rest of the scientific community because the program was rapidly installed, with little input into the national policy from other scientific disciplines.

With shale drilling, the input which would have been beneficial from toxicology, physical chemistry, biology and ecology was bypassed in the rush for instant abundance of gas and wealth for the promoters. Very complicated new technology was finessed by practical people who were mainly interested in getting the job done quickly, without regard to how it would affect the rest of the world around them. Regulatory capture, long a strong suit of the petroleum industry, allowed them to do it.

Now the industry is in the position of denying the obvious results: the health effects, the environmental degradation, the property value destruction, the esthetic values and the corruption of the governmental process. An entire industry has arisen to spin the truth to favor rough extraction of far more natural gas than is presently needed. Time for additional research has been crowded out. Plans are now afoot to export the natural gas that was originally touted as the answer to our “national energy security.”

Hundreds of thousands of acres, an area the size of three Ohio Counties, is to be trampled under in the Marcellus area alone. Regulatory capture, indeed.

For more information about the commission’s findings see Science, 13 July 2012, p. 143.

S. Tom Bond, Farmer, Citizen, Lewis County, WV

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chip Northrup July 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: