A West Texas oil well is releasing “potentially lethal” amounts of toxic hydrogen sulfide gas, according to local groundwater protection officials but elected state regulators say the claim is little more than a money grab. “It probably offends me just a little bit,” Christi Craddick, one of three members of the state Railroad Commission said during a recent public meeting. The Railroad Commission, which regulates the Texas oil and gas industry, will be in charge of distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in orphaned well cleanup funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year.
The failed oil well — now a water well technically under the responsibility of the landowner, who lacks the funds to plug the well — illustrates the jurisdictional wrangling and responsibility offloading that has allowed an unknown number (likely millions) of abandoned oil and gas wells (“orphaned” by their owners and operators) to proliferate across the country, releasing substantial amounts of heat-trapping methane and other pollutants into soil, groundwater, and the atmosphere. (E&E $)