Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Fixing Abandoned Offshore Oil Wells Can Create Jobs and Protect the Ocean
Press Release

RELEASE: Fixing Abandoned Offshore Oil Wells Can Create Jobs and Protect the Ocean

Washington, D.C. – Addressing the thousands of abandoned and orphaned offshore oil and gas wells can both protect the ocean and create good jobs, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress that calls on Congress and the Biden administration to act.

The analysis finds that oil and gas companies are evading their responsibilities to decommission oil and gas wells that pose a direct threat to our environment, society, and economy. These wells are at high risk of leaking and spilling oil or gas into the environment and delaying cleanup can lead to costlier decommissioning efforts later.

The recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes an investment of $4.7 billion for the plugging, remediation, and restoration of land-based orphaned wells. However, there has been no similar investment for offshore wells.

“Fossil fuel industries are already profiting at the cost of coastal communities and the climate,” said Zainab Mirza, research assistant for Ocean Policy at CAP. “They must not be allowed to further pad their margins by shirking their responsibility to clean up after themselves. The Biden administration should hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for this ecological and financial mess.”

The analysis recommends that Congress and the Biden administration ensure that the U.S. Department of Interior has the mandate and resources necessary to take bold and decisive action to address these financial and environmental burdens. That includes:

  • Enforce decommissioning obligations when wells become an environmental hazard or are no longer economically viable
  • Adequately fund the DOI’s decommissioning efforts to stop pollution and create jobs
  • Advance the rigs-to-reefs program in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Improve record keeping and monitoring
  • Require stronger financial assurance from operators equivalent to the full cost of decommissioning obligations

Read the column: “Fixing Abandoned Offshore Oil Wells Can Create Jobs and Protect the Ocean,” by Zainab Mirza, Say Sanchez, and Miriam Goldstein

For more information, or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org.