The gushing BP oil well may be just one of thousands of wells leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
An Associated Press investigation shows there are more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf and neither the industry nor the government are checking to see if they are leaking. Roger Anderson an energy research professor at Columbia University says the thousands of abandoned wells are only as safe as the materials used to cap them.
Federal government records list 3,500 wells as “temporarily abandoned.” Regulations require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year. But the AP has found that the rule is routinely circumvented and more than 1,000 wells have lingered in an unfinished condition for more than a decade. The oldest wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many seals are already failing. The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that it has had
to deal with leaks at abandoned wells in state waters, but only “a few” farther out in the Gulf.
More in this report from the Associated Press