The Department of Mineral Resources have collected almost $4 million in fines in the last three years, but only collected 850,000 between 2013 and 2017.
When something goes wrong at the well oil companies are fined to keep them in line. However the DMR has a policy of suspending some of the fine. If the company doesn't have another infraction in two to three years the suspended portion can be dismissed.
"We always collect enough of the penalty to make sure that it costs the operator more than it would have cost them to just be in compliance. In other words we never let them have an economic break by going non-compliant, and paying just part of the fine." said Lynn Helms, Mineral Resources Director.
Helms says they will suspend half or even three-quarters of the fine, but if they have another infraction they cut the check for the full amount. He says the reason for this is so they can hold these potential fines over a company for that time.
"We think we can change their behavior and the overall attitude and training of the employees by doing that, and that's generally been very successful." said Helms.
The more a company offends, the less lenient the punishments become.
Helms says the DMR sees an increase in fines when oil prices spike or drop off. Those are the times when people are more likely to cut corners.