Waves of Abandonment
Volatile oil prices are setting the stage for fossil fuel companies to abandon oil and gas wells en masse, particularly in the Permian Basin straddling Texas and New Mexico. Those two states are already responsible for cleaning up about 7,000 such abandoned wells, a task that will cost at least $335 million. New statistical models developed by Grist and the Texas Observer predict the states could soon find themselves saddled with an additional 13,000 wells in need of cleanup — with a true cost that is closer to $1 billion.
In This Series
Using machine learning, we found that states are grossly undercounting orphan wells.
Thirty years of data show Texas and New Mexico officials struggled to identify and fine violators.
Unplugged wells could be quietly leaking millions of pounds of methane in West Texas.