Louisiana Faces Risks of CO2 Leaks from Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

Louisiana's abandoned oil and gas wells pose risks of CO2 leaks, jeopardizing carbon storage projects. Environmental justice advocates urge a just transition to renewable energy, warning of CCS's potential hazards in vulnerable communities.

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Quadri Adejumo
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Louisiana Faces Risks of CO2 Leaks from Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

Louisiana Faces Risks of CO2 Leaks from Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

Louisiana faces risks of carbon dioxide leaks from over 13,000 abandoned oil and gas wells as the state becomes a hub for underground carbon storage projects, according to a report by the Center for Applied Environmental Science at the Environmental Integrity Project. The report emphasizes the potential for these abandoned wells to serve as pathways for carbon dioxide to escape, posing environmental and safety concerns.

As Louisiana embraces carbon storage initiatives, the state must address the challenges posed by its aging oil and gas infrastructure to ensure the safe and effective implementation of these projects. The report cautions that the abandoned wells could provide pathways for the stored carbon dioxide to escape, potentially causing environmental and health hazards.

Why this matters: As Louisiana seeks to position itself as a leader in carbon capture and sequestration, addressing the risks associated with abandoned oil and gas wells is vital for the safety and success of these projects. The potential for CO2 leaks raises concerns about the environmental and public health impacts on communities in the region.

The report also highlights concerns about the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which aims to collect and store CO2 emissions underground but can lead to leaks, groundwater contamination, and earthquakes. Environmental justice advocates, including Dr. Beverly Wright and Dr. Robert D. Bullard, have voiced opposition to the overreliance on CCS, arguing that it shifts the problem rather than addressing the root causes of climate change. They call for a just transition to renewable energy sources and a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impacts of pollution on overburdened communities in the Gulf Coast region.

The Louisiana Legislative Session continues to address CCS with several bills up for discussion, touching upon unitization, eminent domain, liability concerns, and revenue dedication of CCS within the state. The first round of CCS bills went forward, with four bills being defeated and one moving forward with amendments to the House floor. The House Committee is scheduled to hear several CCS bills, including five seeking to restrict or prohibit CCS activity.

While the environmental justice community commends the Biden administration and the EPA for taking action to reduce pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants, they remain deeply concerned about the use of CCS technology as part of the solution. "CCS can lead to CO2 leaks, groundwater contamination, and other environmental and health risks, particularly in vulnerable and overburdened communities in the Gulf South region," said Dr. Beverly Wright, Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

Environmental justice groups advocate for a just, fair, and equitable transition to efficient and renewable energy sources. They call for the EPA to incorporate consequential cumulative impact assessments of pollution and other environmental stressors and to truly address the inequity that persists in frontline communities. The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice continue their work in advocating for environmental justice and equity in climate action.

Key Takeaways

  • Louisiana faces risks of CO2 leaks from 13,000+ abandoned oil/gas wells.
  • Abandoned wells pose environmental and safety concerns for carbon storage projects.
  • CCS technology raises concerns about leaks, contamination, and earthquakes.
  • Environmental justice groups oppose overreliance on CCS, call for renewable transition.
  • Louisiana legislature continues to address CCS bills, with some seeking to restrict it.