Amid the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, one oil and gas group wants to use unemployed oil and gas workers to plug orphan wells.
In recent weeks, the federal government has made some controversial (though temporary) changes to the environmental regulations that govern the oil and gas industry. Explicitly, the EPA stated that it will dramatically slow down enforcement of environmental regulations. The announcement immediately drew criticism from anti-energy advocates who declared that oil and gas companies would undoubtedly use the opportunity to cease any precautions that would help the environment.
In fact, weeks after the EPA’s proclamation, evidence suggests that the industry is going out of its way to behave responsibly.
A Rising Concern
As with most industries, the outbreak of COVID-19 has forced several thousand oil and gas workers onto the unemployment line. The tragic circumstances have anti-energy advocates concerned for the number of wells that are now left seemingly abandoned. The issue has caused some hand-wringing.
A statement from Colorado’s regulatory body, the newly-reorganized Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, declared that the industry “is organized such that the pandemic and industry downturn has not to this point and is not expected in the future to represent a significant impediment to safe operations.”
Even that assurance did little to slow down protests.
The IOGCC Weighs In
The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) doesn’t often go out of its way to make headlines. Considering the multi-state organization is made up of 38 state governors, people tend to listen when it does make a statement.
In an environment where several financial experts have suggested bailouts for the ailing oil and gas industry, the IOGCC has indicated that the Trump administration should use federal dollars on a bold new idea. The interstate group wants to hire laid-off oil and gas workers to find and plug abandoned wells.
Taking a page from the Canadian oil and gas industry, the IOGCC wants to use federal funds “to help keep oil and gas crews working during the current crisis.”
A Win-Win Scenario
In the years following the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the New Deal. The massive public works project was designed to help pull the United States out of an unprecedented economic depression, the kind the nation hasn’t endured since … until now.
During the months of uncertainty during which the United States’ economy seems frozen, any idea that puts people back to work is a good one. In a nation with more than one million orphaned wells, the IOGCC might be on to something.