The Rising Cost of the Oil Industry’s Slow Death (ProPublica)


    The Rising Cost of the Oil Industry’s Slow Death – By Mark Olalde (ProPublica) and Nick Bowlin (Capital & Main) / Feb 22, 2024

    Unplugged oil and gas wells accelerate climate change, threaten public health and risk hitting taxpayers’ pocketbooks. ProPublica and Capital & Main found that the money set aside to fix the problem falls woefully short of the impending cost.

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    In the 165 years since the first American oil well struck black gold, the industry has punched millions of holes in the earth, seeking profits gushing from the ground. Now, those wells are running dry, and a generational bill is coming due.

    Until wells are properly plugged, many leak oil and brine onto farmland and into waterways and emit toxic and explosive gasses, rendering redevelopment impossible. A noxious lake inundates West Texas ranchland, oil bubbles into a downtown Los Angeles apartment building and gas seeps into the yards of suburban Ohio homes.

    But the impact is felt everywhere, as many belch methane, the second-largest contributor to climate change, into the atmosphere.

    There are more than 2 million unplugged oil and gas wells that will need to be cleaned up, and the current production boom and windfall profits for industry giants have obscured the bill’s imminent arrival. More than 90% of the country’s unplugged wells either produce little oil and gas or are already dormant.




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