A recent report by Carbon Tracker entitled, “Closing Time”, links abandoned oil and gas wells to climate damaging methane emissions.
The report is not anything revolutionary. For years people have known that abandoned oil wells have been known to leak various gases, one of those gases being harmful methane gas.
To reduce harmful emissions like methane it is important that abandoned wells get reclaimed in a timely manner. This is because methane is an especially harmful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of up to 25 times more potent than carbon on a 100 year time scale.
Although I have generally opposed providing taxpayer dollars to the oil industry, the recent move by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources (NDDMR) and leaders at the North Dakota Industrial Commission to direct CARES Act money to reclaiming North Dakota’s abandoned oil wells is a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing methane emissions from abandoned wells.
Methane emissions also come from active oil and gas wells. If North Dakota state officials want to truly reduce methane emissions they will also have to stop supporting the rollback of Obama era methane regulations that applied to the oil and gas industry. A proposal is currently being mulled over to significantly weaken the 2016 Obama Administration EPA Methane Rule. If North Dakota officials were truly serious about reducing methane emissions they should be in opposition to the proposed changes to the 2016 methane regulations.
In my view we need to address both sources of emissions, not just those from abandoned wells. As a result, I urge North Dakota officials to continue their work to plug abandoned wells, while at the same time push back against the Trump Administration roll-backs of the Obama era methane rules. We will only solve the methane problem by addressing both active and abandoned oil wells.
Editor's note: DeVille is the vice president of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights and a candidate for District 4 State Senate.