Texas’s Zombie Oil Wells Are Creating An Environmental Disaster Zone

"Thousands of abandoned oil wells dot the Permian Basin in west Texas and New Mexico, endangering humans and wildlife. With oil costs plummeting, they’re likely to proliferate. Who is going to cover the cleanup costs?"

"When Laura Briggs and her husband finally found their dream home in west Texas, they knew they’d be sharing space with the oil industry. The Pecos county ranch’s previous owner, local attorney Windel “Hoot” Gibson, died there when a rickety old pumpjack teetered over and fell on top of him.

But sharing 900 acres with a handful of old oil wells seemed like a fair trade for a spacious ranch where the Briggs family could raise four kids and a mess of farm animals. The property is smack dab in the middle of the Permian Basin, an ancient, dried-up sea that streaks across Texas and New Mexico and is the most productive oil field in the United States. Approximately 3m barrels of the Permian’s monthly crude production happens in Pecos county; there is an oil or gas well for roughly every two people here.

After closing on the property a decade ago, it didn’t take the Briggs family long to make the place their own. They built a roomy, two-story metal house and constructed livestock pens for hogs, goats, donkeys and cattle. For a few years, the Briggs ranch delivered the rural splendor they’d hoped for. “When you come out here, it is dry. There is no Starbucks. But there is a peace to that,” Laura said. “This takes some stress off your shoulders and you’re like, all you really need in life is a pair of blue jeans and a good book.”"

Clayton Aldern, Christopher Collins, and Naveena Sadasivam report for the Guardian April 15, 2021.

Source: Guardian, 04/16/2021