DALLAS – Even when policymakers set the easiest rules for fossil fuel producers to follow, it seems like many companies choose to flout them anyway. A new analysis from Earthworks suggests that oil and gas producers in the Permian Basin in Texas, one of the largest oilfields in the world, are routinely emitting carbon dioxide and methane without the correct permits, with offenders including big names like Shell and Exxon.

The Permian Basin has had all sorts of problems tied to methane, particularly leaky equipment and wellheads. But the new report delves into another major source: flaring and venting, which companies use to dump or burn unwanted gas into the atmosphere.

“The gas is not what they’re after,” report author Sharon Wilson said, noting companies are largely looking for more profitable oil. “It’s not worth their time and money because it costs more to transport the gas to market unless the price of gas is very high.”

The new analysis relies on data from a number of sources, including data collected by the Environmental Defense Fund during three flyovers of 1,000 sites in one district in the Permian Basin where the group used special monitoring equipment to observe flares. The Earthworks team cross-referenced this with data from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), the confusingly named state regulatory body that is responsible for the oversight of the oil and gas industry. The commission issues flaring permits, but the results of the analysis show many companies are sneaking around regulations.