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Articles by Mark Olalde, ProPublica

Mark Olalde is a reporter at ProPublica covering the environment in the Southwest.

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This story was originally published by ProPublica and is reproduced here with permission. Sign up for Dispatches, ProPublica’s weekly newsletter.

For well over a century, the oil and gas industry has drilled holes across California in search of black gold and a lucrative payday. But with production falling steadily, the time has come to clean up many of the nearly quarter-million wells scattered from downtown Los Angeles to western Kern County and across the state.

The bill for that work, however, will vastly exceed all the industry’s future profits in the state, according to a first-of-its-kind study published on May 18 and shared with ProPublica.

“This major issue has sneaked up on us,” said Dwayne Purvis, a Texas-based petroleum reservoir engineer who analyzed profits and cleanup costs for the report. “Policymakers haven’t recognized it. Industry hasn’t recognized it, or, if they have, they haven’t talked about it and acted on it.”

The analysis, which w... Read more