The oil and gas industry has been exposed time and time again for putting people and public safety behind profits. The latest news shows that the industry has been underreporting serious leaks/releases.

The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently released findings that oil companies, particularly those in the Permian Basin, grossly underreported methane leaks from their wells.  This confirms an earlier report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that found methane leak emissions from the oil, gas, and coal industries are 70% higher than official government estimates.  Both the IEA and the House Committee are pushing for stricter surveillance measures and more sophisticated monitoring equipment.

The underreporting of methane leak emissions is in fitting with the energy industries’ extreme opposition to any regulation of greenhouse gases (or any regulation of their businesses really).  This strategy also dovetails with the industry’s underreporting of the scope of spills and leaks of oil and produced water.  Unfortunately for many in these industries, self-regulation is simply a license to subvert or ignore laws and regulations intended to protect public health and the environment.

How Can Underreporting Affect Me?

The underreporting of methane leaks increases greenhouse gas emissions worsening the effects of climate change.  Climate change threatens people with food and water scarcity, increased flooding, extreme heat, more disease, and economic loss.  We in South Louisiana are all too familiar with these issues.

Beyond these global risks to public welfare, South Louisiana landowners should be particularly wary of representations by oil companies regarding agency approved closures of historic oil and gas sites.  The Louisiana agencies charged with regulating the oil and gas industry are often revolving doors for industry hires.  On top of the congenial nature of the regulator-industry relationships, the agencies are notoriously underfunded if the goal is really to protect public health and the environment from oil and gas activities.

The result of the cozy relationship between industry and regulations combined with the underfunding of real oversight is frequently self-regulation by the oil and gas industry.  Rudimentary practices used for the drilling, operation, and production of oil, gas, and injection wells from the 1930’s through the mid-1980’s resulted in contamination of thousands of tracts of properties across South Louisiana through the extensive use of unlined disposal, drilling, retention, and emergency pits.

1986 – Louisiana Regulates Oil and Gas Pit Closures

Environmental activists gained public support in the mid-1980’s and were able to influence regulatory reform for the oil and gas industry targeting the unlined earthen pits that caused so much contamination.  The 1986 Amendments to Statewide Order No. 29-B set standards for closing oil and gas pits.  Throughout the early 1980’s, with knowledge that regulation was coming, oil and gas companies raced to close as many legacy sites as possible before the introduction of real regulatory measures.

Industry Sampling Leaves Landowners in the Dark

Additionally, regulators rely on industry sampling data to determine whether former oilfield sites are properly closed.  With generally no oversight from the landowners, there has been a gross underreporting of contaminants in soil and groundwater across Louisiana.  Similar to the underreporting of the methane leaks now, the underreporting of land and groundwater contamination from pit closures puts the public and environment at risk.

The result of a long history of a lack of oversight for the oil and gas industry in Louisiana is that thousands of sites received agency approval for closures, but likely are contaminated to dangerous levels.  If you or your family owns property in South Louisiana on which oil and gas operations occurred prior to 1986, please contact our office at 504-593-9600 for a free consultation to see if your property may be contaminated.

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