The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Oil Well Environmental Crisis

Feb 26, 2024

The first American oil well struck “black gold” 165 years ago. Since that time millions of U.S. wells have been drilled. Today, the big majority of these wells are pumping very little oil or gas or are completely dormant.

Dormant wells are supposed to be “plugged.” Otherwise, many leak oil and brine (a mixture of oil and water) onto farmland or even into basements in Los Angeles, or into waterways. They also emit poisonous and explosive gases.

The effects are worldwide because many dormant wells belch out methane gas, a major contributor to global warming and climate change.

Oil companies are supposed to be legally responsible for plugging their old wells. While their wells are producing, the companies are supposed to set aside money in the form of bonds for plugging them later on. If they don’t plug them, the government itself uses the bond to pay for plugging them. But a recent study estimates the cost to clean up and properly plug old U.S. wells will be at least 150 billion dollars and surely much more. Yet the bond money now set aside for this is only about 2% of this amount. Obviously, the bond amounts required by state and federal agencies are not enough.

This has been known for years. But political lobbying by the oil and gas industry has stopped required bond amounts from being increased.

So today states and the federal government will have to increase taxes if they want to plug and clean up thousands of old well sites. Once again, ordinary working people will be called upon to pay for corporate environmental irresponsibility.