Our Research and Reports
Oil & Gas
Reclaiming Oil and Gas Wells and Addressing Climate Impacts: State Policy Recommendations
Unplugged oil and gas wells pose a significant threat to our climate, as well as having negative impacts on water, air, and public health and safety. But the inventory of these wells, including orphaned wells, has been growing, not shrinking, year over year. The longer these wells sit, the more damage they cause. Reclaiming Oil and Gas Wells and Addressing Climate Impacts: State Policy Recommendations seeks to summarize the challenges state regulatory programs face and make recommendations for stronger policies that will help ensure that oil and gas sites are plugged and reclaimed in a complete and timely way. The…
State and Federal Oil and Gas Bonding Policy Comparison
In the midst of historically low oil prices and plummeting demand, inadequate federal and state reclamation bonding requirements make it easier for deeply indebted oil and gas operators to declare bankruptcy and walk away from orphaned wells en masse. This report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils examines the bonding rules in eleven Western states and found that the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rules are weaker than any state’s. BLM’s $25,000 minimum statewide bond, which covers unlimited federal wells in a single state, is four times lower than the typical state requirement. While the federal rules are…
Oil and Gas Bonding: The Basics
A crisis of unreclaimed and under-bonded oil and gas wells is growing across the West, threatening American taxpayers with liability in the billions and landowners with increasing risk to their land and water. The federal government’s oil and gas manager, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has not substantively changed standards for bonding in nearly seven decades. While this crisis is growing, common-sense solutions can still prevent a catastrophe. When coal companies apply for a mine permit, they are required to estimate the cost to clean up and reclaim the site, then hand over financial assurances that would cover the…
The Flaring Boom
Surging oil production in shale hot spots, like the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas, has increased waste of natural gas through flaring, venting, and leaking. WORC’s report, The Flaring Boom, examines the causes and effects of flaring, venting, and leaking of natural gas by examining efforts to curtail these wasteful practices in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. (more…)
No Time to Waste
No Time to Waste examines standards and disposal practices around radioactive oil and gas waste in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. It finds that state governments in each of these states fail to protect citizens and the environment from a hazardous and quickly growing waste stream. The report calls for federal rules for radioactive oil and gas waste and stronger state standards.
Gone for Good: Fracking and Water Loss in the West
Gone for Good: Fracking and Water Loss in the West reports on how the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming let the oil and gas industry drain irreplaceable groundwater resources and remove these resources from the hydrological cycle. his water loss threatens the future of other industries, agriculture, and the families who live near oil and gas development. The report found that oil and gas extraction practices are permanently removing at least seven billion gallons of water from the hydrologic cycle each year in just four arid western states. The reason for the huge loss of water is that states…
Watered Down is the second of a series of reports on the impact of oil and gas extraction on water. Gone for Good, the first report, outlined where the oil and gas industry gets the massive quantities of water used for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” It also identified how state governments track water use (when they do), and how much is actually consumed without the possibility of reuse any time soon. Almost all water used for fracking is consumed and cannot be reused, as it turns out.
Law and Order in the Oil and Gas Fields 2013
The 2013 update of Law and Order in the Oil and Gas Fields analyzes state inspection of oil operations data from five oil-producing states—Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming. The report called attention to the need for state and the federal governments to fund more oil and gas inspectors and increase penalties for violating public health, safety and environmental laws. Report Findings The findings include: Growth in the number of oil and gas wells continues to outpace increases in the number of state inspectors. In Colorado, each inspector is responsible for more than 5,000 active oil and gas…
Coalbed Methane Development: Boon or Bane for Rural Residents?
Natural gas, or methane, is a cleaner burning fossil fuel, the demand for which is on the upswing in the United States. But there are negative impacts from the extraction, production and distribution of natural gas, especially in rural areas. Coalbed Methane Development: Boon or Bane for Rural Residents examines the impacts of one form of natural gas development, commonly called coalbed methane.
Filling The Gaps: How to Improve Oil and Gas Reclamation
Filling The Gaps contends oil and gas companies should pay to cleanup their oil and gas operations, not taxpayers and landowners. To guarantee responsible behavior, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and state agencies should require companies to post a full damage deposit – financial assurance – as a security against possible problems, along with reclamation plans detailing how a site will be restored. Unfortunately, the amounts of this financial assurance required fall grossly short of potential cleanup costs.