A new set of bills, created to reform Louisiana's cleanup of abandoned oil wells scattered among the state, has worked its way into the Legislature.
The bill would identify orphan wells as hazardous and evoke a massive cleanup to minimize dangers posed to people and the environment.
As of 2013, the state had 2,846 abandoned wells that were not plugged. According to an auditor, Louisiana's 57,819 gas and oil wells were not regulated or inspected correctly, including wells abandoned by operators long ago.
Abandoned Well Dangers
Orphan wells are wells that are no longer used to extract gas and oil and whose ownership is no longer clear due to bankruptcies and the passage of time. These wells can cause serious risk such as toxicity to the land and explosions.
Many older abandoned wells were not plugged properly or plugged at all. Some wells continue to produce oil that seeps into groundwater and contaminates it or the oil comes to the surface and pollutes lakes and rivers. Natural gas that leaks from abandoned wells is a potentially deadly greenhouse gas that can collect and explode inside buildings built over the orphan wells.
The new and recently approved bill, named Allain's Senate Bill 371, would permit the state to collect cleanup costs for the abandoned wells from previous operators. To date, the Department of Natural Resources is permitted to only recover cleanup costs from previous well operators once the bill is more than $250,000. The new legislation would lower the tab to $50,000 for land cleanups and $100,000 for water cleanups.
Environmental damage can be caused by oil companies that do not properly plug unused oil wells or clean up toxic chemicals seeping out of improperly plugged wells. By failing to maintain previously used equipment, the health and well-being of other people may be at stake.
Have you been injured or suffered due to environmental damage caused by an abandoned oil well? If so, contact the skilled environmental damage attorneys at Simien & Simien today to discuss your claim and find out if you are eligible to receive compensation for your damages.