How big of an environmental problem are old abandoned wells?

On behalf of Rock Palermo of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC posted in Environmental Law on July 08, 2015.

When an oil or gas company decides to permanently stop using an oil or natural gas well it created, it is very important for the company to properly close up the well. Currently, there are a variety of standards in place regarding the closing of such wells. One hopes that all oil and gas companies are complying with such standards.

Of course, oil/gas drilling has been going on longer than there have been strong and well-enforced well closing standards. Thus, many older abandoned oil/gas wells may have been improperly closed or not been plugged at all.

A shut-down oil/gas well can cause a considerable amount of environmental damage when it isn't closed properly. Examples of problems that can arise in relation to improperly closed wells include gas, oil and brine leaks. Such leaks can lead to water, land and soil contamination. They could even present an explosion risk.

Thus, old abandoned oil/gas wells could possibly pose a significant environmental danger. This danger could possibly be exacerbated by current drilling activities. For example, when fracking occurs near an improperly closed old abandoned well, it could increase the chances of the old well leaking.

One of the challenges associated with older abandoned oil/gas wells is that it is not always clear where they are. Many were not properly mapped.

Recently, states have been looking into ways to find and properly close up old abandoned oil/gas wells.

How big of a problem do you think old abandoned oil/gas wells are here in Louisiana? What actions would you like to see Louisiana take when it comes to such wells?

Some special legal challenges can arise for landowners who have had their land or water supply harmed by an older abandoned oil/gas well. For one, many older abandoned wells were made by companies that are no longer in existence. Thus, having an experienced environmental law attorney review the situation can be important when one has experienced harm as a result of an improperly closed old abandoned oil/gas well. Such attorneys can look into the details of the well, its ownership and the circumstances leading up to the harm to help determine what legal options are available for the harmed landowner.

Source: Times Record, "Dangers Below Can Accompany Abandoned Wells," Shane Hoover, July 5, 2015

Tags: Environmental Law

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