The Obama administration moved to head off another catastrophic leak like the BP disaster Wednesday, ordering oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico to plug or dismantle thousands of wells and platforms no longer in use.
In Washington, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an order requiring oil and gas companies to plug nearly 3,500 nonproducing wells and dismantle about 650 production platforms that are longer being used.
The threat posed by the wells was detailed earlier this summer in an Associated Press investigation. The Gulf has more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells and more than 1,200 idle rigs and platforms, and AP found that many of the wells have been ignored for decades, with no one checking for leaks.
“As infrastructure continues to age, the risk of damage increases. That risk increases substantially during storm season,” said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
Under the order, operators must plug wells that been inactive for the past five years. Platforms and pipelines that are not being used for production or exploration must be decommissioned, even if the leases are still active.