Data inconsistencies from states with unconventional oil and gas activity

Samantha Malone, Matthew Kelso, Ted Auch, Karen Edelstein, Kyle Ferrar, Kirk Jalbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The quality and availability of unconventional oil and gas (O&G) data in the United States have never been compared methodically state-to-state. By conducting such an assessment, this study seeks to better understand private and publicly sourced data variability and to identify data availability gaps. We developed an exploratory data-grading tool - Data Accessibility and Usability Index (DAUI) - to guide the review of O&G data quality. Between July and October 2013, we requested, collected, and assessed 5 categories of unconventional O&G data (wells drilled, violations, production, waste, and Class II disposal wells) from 10 states with active drilling activity. We based our assessment on eight data quality parameters (accessibility, usability, point location, completeness, metadata, agency responsiveness, accuracy, and cost). Using the DAUI, two authors graded the 10 states and then averaged their scores. The average score received across all states, data categories, and parameters was 67.1 out of 100, largely insufficient for proper data transparency. By state, Pennsylvania received the highest average (= 93.5) and ranked first in all but one data category. The lowest scoring state was Texas (= 44) largely due to its policy of charging for certain data. This article discusses the various reasons for scores received, as well as methodological limitations of the assessment metrics. We argue that the significant variability of unconventional O&G data - and its availability to the public - is a barrier to regulatory and industry transparency. The lack of transparency also impacts public education and broader participation in industry governance. This study supports the need to develop a set of data best management practices (BMPs) for state regulatory agencies and the O&G industry, and suggests potential BMPs for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-510
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 16 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Data transparency
  • environmental governance
  • oil and gas extraction
  • public participation
  • unconventional drilling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering


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