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Montana oil and gas wells go without inspection

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — More than two dozen newly drilled oil and gas wells with a high pollution risk went uninspected on federal and tribal lands in Montana during a recent three-year period, according to an Associated Press review.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management data examined by The Associated Press show that 25 out of 144 wells in high-priority areas were not inspected between fiscal year 2009 and 2012. That's equivalent to about 1 in 6 wells that weren't assessed.

Nationwide, about 40 percent of wells went uninspected during that time period, a finding that underscores the government's struggle to keep pace with America's drilling boom.

The BLM designates high-priority wells based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental safety issues. Factors also include whether a well is located near a high-pressure formation, or whether the drill operator lacks a clear track record.

Eleven of the uninspected, high-priority wells in Montana were on tribal land and 14 were on federal land.

More than a dozen companies were involved in leasing the sites, including Continental Resources Inc., Fidelity Exploration and Production Co., Rosetta Resources Operating LP and Anschutz Exploration Corp.

BLM officials acknowledge they've had trouble keeping up with inspections and promised to make changes including prioritizing which wells pose the most risk of causing harm if something were to go wrong.

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