Progress being made in oilfield cleanup

BATON ROUGE – The state Oilfied Site Restoration Commission met Thursday to hear the latest report from staff about the progress the program is making in cleaning up orphaned oilfield sites across the state - including more than two dozen sites cleaned and wells cleaned in the last three months.

The Commission, and the Oilfield Site Restoration section of the Office of Conservation within the Department of Natural Resources, has the duty of properly plugging wells designated as orphaned and restoring the sites to the pre-well site conditions. The commission is made up of representatives of government, the oil and gas industry and environmental groups.

Orphaned wells are old and abandoned oil and gas wells for which no viable responsible parties can be located.

The program has spent nearly $60 million on cleaning up sites since it was created in 1993. Money for projects in the program comes from fees paid by companies in the oil and gas industry based on barrels of oil or cubic feet of natural gas produced.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, who also sits as chairman of the commission, said the program continues to be one of the strongest examples of cooperation between government, the environmental community and industry.

“The Oilfield Site Restoration Program has been an unqualified success story or our state,” Angelle said. “During this time when we observance of Earth Day has so many of us taking a longer look at how we take car of our environment, we can all take pride in the continuing good news this program brings to our state.”

Kjel Brothen, manager of the program, informed the commission that the program instituted by the state legislature in 1993, had plugged and cleaned sites for 28 wells since the last commission meeting in January.

Included in that were fifteen wells in the marshes of Cameron Parish near Hackberry, a particularly difficult site to work in light of the fact that much of the site was a foot under water.

The program has plans to clear and plug another 52 well sites before the end of the current fiscal year, once expenditure of funds is approved.

Overall, the program has completed work on more than 2,100 wells from its inception in 1993 through April 2009.

About 2,700 identified orphaned wells are yet to be cleaned and cleared, as the program is approaching the pint where more wells will have been plugged than remain to be addressed.

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