Abandoned Oil and Gas Sites Are Leaking Methane Across the Country

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Contributed date

October 12, 2021 - 2:33pm

Critical Commentary

This article peaked my interest after attending 4S and listening to a presentation on orphaned oil and gas wells on Dinehtah, the homeland of the Navajo tribe. 

There are 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells across the United States which pose great environmental and health risks as they leak methane and can contimnate ground water. This is largely due to deficient energy infrastructure policies in states across the U.S. that set bonds for remediating wells far too low- state governments wanted to entice less wealthy energy companies to build infrastructure on their land, so they set bonds much lower than the actual cost it takes to plug wells and remediate the land. State and federal agencies are now liable for much of this cost—which Carbon Tracker estimated could approach $280 billion to remediate 2.6 million documented onshore wells alone.

Under the Biden Administration, Congress is poised to provide billions of dollars in funding to start plugging these wells as part of the administration’s ambitious climate agenda. Legislators are also working to reform rules that require companies to post adequate bonds to clean up oil and gas sites once they’re finished extracting fossil fuels. Provisions to plug inactive oil and gas wells are included in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package the Senate approved and forwarded to the House. The bill includes $4.7 billion for orphaned well cleanup on state, private, federal, and tribal lands. Orphaned wells are those where no known operator can be held responsible for cleaning up the site. 



Cite as

Jennifer Oldham, "Abandoned Oil and Gas Sites Are Leaking Methane Across the Country", contributed by Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 12 October 2021, accessed 2 March 2024. https://energyrights.info/content/abandoned-oil-and-gas-sites-are-leaking-methane-across-country