Part I:  California Says:

I love living in San Diego County.

I’ve lived in other places, and I know this is the right match for me.

And I’m glad I live in California, the super-blue state.

One reason I’m glad is because California considers itself a forward-thinking, proactive state.  And it does, in fact, often lead the way, becoming the “first in the nation” as these examples show:

And when it comes to climate change, we like to think we’re leading the way there as well.  For instance:

Anything climate-related, California considers itself front and center.

And in May, when Governor Newsom proposed a budget:

It included a:

“$47.1 billion climate commitment – an increase of $32 billion this year – to tackle pollution, build climate resilient water supplies, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, ensure grid reliability and accelerate clean energy solutions, and protect communities from extreme heat.”

A big “climate commitment.”

What’s not to like about that?

How about this:

“California claims to know how much climate-warming gas is going into the air from within its borders.  It’s the law:  California limits climate pollution and each year the limits get stricter.

“The state has also been a major oil and gas producer for more than a century, and authorities are well aware some 35,000 old, inactive oil and gas wells perforate the landscape.

“Yet officials with the agency responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions say they don’t include methane that leaks from these idle wells in their inventory of the state’s emissions.”

First:  How can California calculate how much climate-warming gas is going into the air from within our borders if leaking wells aren’t part of the calculation?

Sounds like a Do As I Say, Not As I Do on California’s part.

Second:  Why are there “35,000 old, inactive oil and gas wells” littering California’s landscape?  If they’re not in use, why haven’t the oil and gas companies removed them and plugged them and done whatever else responsible owners should do?

Here’s what one of California’s inactive – often called “orphan” – wells looks like:

Now multiply that by 35,000.

Oil and gas wells are all over the state:

That’s a lot of ugly.

And, apparently, dangerous.

Let’s talk a bit about what some (perhaps many) of these orphan wells are leaking – methane gas:

  • Methane (CH4) is a colorless, odorless and highly flammable gas, composed of carbon and hydrogen.  It is a potent greenhouse gas, meaning it affects climate change by contributing to increased warming, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Methane traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.  Nearly 20% of the planet’s warming can be attributed to methane.
  • Methane reductions are crucial to slowing today’s unprecedented rate of global warming and helping avert our most acute climate risks including crop loss, wildfires, extreme weather, and rising sea levels.

And these methane-leaking oil wells aren’t new news – according to this May 23 article:

“‘We’ve been trying to get the state to address idle orphan wells for years,’ said Maricruz Ramirez, a community organizer with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.  ‘All these issues have been brought up time and time again, and we’re sure this is not a unique occurrence among the thousands of idle oil and gas wells that go unchecked every year.  The state can’t continue to drag their feet on matters like this while simultaneously preaching their climate leadership.’”

“Climate leadership”?

California touts its “$47.1 billion climate commitment” and how proactive we are about anything climate-related, yet the state is allowing methane gas to leak from abandoned wells?

So there’s the methane/climate change issue.

Orphan wells, Bakersfield, CA.

The USA Today article above also mentions methane health-related issues, including:

“…blurry vision, vomiting, headaches and in extreme cases, asphyxiation.”

Plus, there’s the possibility of the wells leaching toxins into groundwater, which is used for drinking water by close to 50 percent of the people in the U.S.

And again from the USA Today article, there’s the danger-of-explosions part:

“…the levels detected in spot readings at four of the long-dormant wells reached 50,000 parts per million – high enough to explode – within a few yards of each of those wells…”

“The real risk, the state engineer said, lies underground, with unknown amounts of methane possibly building up in tight spaces and exploding.”

That story was about six leaking oil wells Bakersfield, CA in May.

Here’s an update from June:

“A total of 21 oil wells have been found to be leaking methane in or near two Bakersfield neighborhoods, and more than two dozen are being tested by state and regional air regulators.”

The 35,000 wells are described as “abandoned” and/or “inactive,” but the “orphan” wells have “parents” – the owners – and three of them are mentioned in the article:

And yet, says the Desert Sun,

“Idled wells are a burgeoning problem in California’s century-old oil fields.  A state study concluded two years ago that taxpayers could be saddled with more than $1 billion in cleanup costs if operators walk away from their responsibilities to properly plug and abandon them.

“A report released Thursday by a consumer advocacy group and a coalition of environmental justice groups concludes costs associated with the industry to the state could top $10 trillion by 2045.”

“Taxpayers could be saddled”?

Yes:  And not just California taxpayers, but federal taxpayers as well.

Orphan wells, Texas.

Conclusion:  Friday, August 19.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: