Louisiana Department of Natural Resources

This is an abandoned oil well. Not a pretty sight! Change is coming.

Louisiana is set to receive more than $111 million as part of a new federal program aimed at plugging the growing number of “orphan” oil and gas wells around the country, a move that could reduce one of the state’s biggest environmental threats and give Louisiana a much-needed economic boost. The U.S. Interior Department announced on Monday that Louisiana would be awarded about $47 million to plug and clean up orphan wells as part of the first phase of funding and grants from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed in November. Louisiana’s allotment is expected to grow to at least $111.4 million in later phases, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of the act’s sponsors. “I’ve heard from communities across Louisiana about the environmental and safety hazards of orphan wells,” the Baton Rouge Republican said. “This funding from the bipartisan infrastructure package will create jobs, help state officials address these wells and make Louisiana a cleaner place to live. In addition, the land around these wells can be repurposed and lead to an economic boost.”

You would think all of our house and senate members would support this but only two did yet I am sure the other five will take credit.

Just two members of Louisiana’s eight-member congressional delegation voted for the infrastructure bill: Cassidy and U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans. The U.S. has millions of wells that have been abandoned by their owners and are now the responsibility of state governments. Louisiana’s official tally is 4,605 orphan wells, but state officials stay there are likely many more that have not been documented. The number is expected to grow as more wells are shut down due to low oil prices and a spate of bankruptcies and downsizings by small oil and gas companies. The $111.4 million for Louisiana is enough money to plug about a quarter of the state’s documented orphan wells. Under the new federal program, almost $1.2 billion will be available to states to clean up orphan wells across the country.

A major health hazard as methane is escaping from these wells.

Millions of people live within a mile of old wells that pose various risks, from oil and brine leaking into groundwater to large amounts of escaping methane, an air pollutant that contributes to climate change. Plugging orphan wells will help tackle “legacy pollution and long-standing environmental injustices that for too long have plagued underrepresented communities,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “This is good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers.”  Plugging all of Louisiana’s orphan wells could employ just over 1,000 oil workers full-time for one year, a report by Columbia University and Resources for the Future, a Washington D.C. environmental policy think tank, estimated in 2020. It would also cut methane emissions by 558 metric tons per year, according to the report. That’s the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 3,000 cars.

We have over 4600 wells to plug and rank 10th in the country with abandoned wells. Should not the oil companies plugged them?

The state Department of Natural Resources has plugged about 3,300 wells since its orphan well program began in 1993. The pace of plugging wells in coastal areas has been slower than other parts of the state because the work is more expensive and requires extra measures to avoid spills in sensitive wetlands and waterways. Coastal wells are especially vulnerable to corrosion, waves and storms as the state’s coastal marshes sink and erode.

It is good they are being plugged but if the money only does a quarter of them that will still leave over 3000 still to plug. Again, this should have been done by the oil companies. Being an oil and gas state does not mean they get off the hook.

Plug those wells and her is the money