Oil and gas companies are making a mess of the planet, not just by feeding our fossil fuel addiction, but by failing to clean up after themselves. Energy companies around the country exploit the land to extract oil and natural gas, but when the fuel (or the money) dries up, they often simply abandon the wells. This passes the buck to the communities and states where these wells have been left behind — and the cost of plugging them and cleaning up excess waste is staggering. Research published by Carbon Tracker shows that across the United States, there are more than 2.6 million unplugged wells that have been abandoned. Plugging those wells will cost taxpayers an estimated $280 billion.
“This is a common tactic in the oil and gas industry: Spinning off liabilities to progressively weaker companies until the final owner goes bankrupt and none of the previous owners are on the hook for cleanup,” Clark Williams-Derry, a finance analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Mother Jones.