Oklahoma is known for its oil and gas industry. We’ve provided the nation with the necessary resources people have needed to heat their homes, cook their meals, and run their cars. While this is worthy of praise, the unfortunate reality is that once workers have mined all the oil out of the ground at a specific location, the well they created to retrieve the oil may not be appropriately taken care of afterward.
With many of the companies who owned wells going out of business, capping off the abandoned wells is often financially impossible. Good news has arrived, however, in the form of funding. Now, dangerous orphaned wells – the cause of many injuries and disasters – will be capped, making them safer for communities.
Thanks to the new infrastructure law, Oklahoma becomes safer
Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2021. This law was created with the goal to “rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.” The law is also intended to “help ease inflationary pressures and strengthen supply chains by making long overdue improvements for our nation’s ports, airports, rail, and roads.”
Oklahoma has just recently been awarded a $25 million grant that will be used to cap 1,196 abandoned oil and gas wells across the state. Priority over which wells get capped is given to those which “pose the greatest threat to health and human safety, the environment, and personal property.” On top of this, the state is going to work with local Tribes in order to cap wells within their territories. The new funding to cap these wells and keep the people of our state safe will also provide good-paying, union jobs to our population.
Orphaned oil and gas wells have long been a danger to our communities. They pollute the land, including our backyards, playgrounds, parks, and other community spaces with dangerous methane gas leaking into the ground and into the air. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping in greenhouse gasses and heat, and so not only is it dangerous to people, but also to the environment. In some areas, groundwater has become polluted, rusty equipment left out, and animals’ habitats destroyed or gravely affected.
Another hazard these abandoned wells pose is that many of them are unmarked. As with any well or deep hole in the ground, people are bound to fall in and seriously hurt themselves.
Injuries sustained at oil wells
Whether an oil well is still in operation has been abandoned, there are many ways in which injuries can occur at one of these sites. Some of the most common injuries from oil wells include:
- Tetanus. Tetanus is an infection that can be transmitted through open cuts coming into contact with surfaces that contain the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This includes soil, dust, and manure, but most commonly rusty metal, such as nails, or the equipment left behind at oil wells. Even the metal of the well itself could give you tetanus should you trap your foot in one with a misstep, or trip over one. Symptoms that you have tetanus include jaw cramping, muscle spasms, seizures, headaches, fever, or changes in blood pressure. Tetanus is a serious infection that should be treated immediately, as it can cause you serious damage, or even death.
- Methane poisoning. Methane is an odorless, colorless gas that is highly flammable, and highly dangerous to breathe in. At high concentrations, methane gas can act as an asphyxiant just as carbon monoxide does. Symptoms of methane poisoning include dizziness, clumsiness, euphoria, weakness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, rapid breathing, fainting, coma, and even death. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of methane poisoning, it is crucial that you remove yourself from the area. Administered oxygen and extra medical treatment may be necessary.
- Internal damage. Abandoned oil wells mean metal is left in the ground, which rusts over time, possibly cracking the well itself. Not only does that mean oil is released into the ground, but also heavy metal contaminants. Heavy metal contaminants include arsenic, antimony, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, selenium, and more. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “people that consume high levels of heavy metals risk acute and chronic toxicity, liver, kidney, and intestinal damage, anemia, and cancer.” These contaminants can infiltrate your private wells through surface water seepage, run-off, and groundwater movement.
As evidenced above, there are a lot of reasons why marking off and capping wells is crucial to the safety and health of everyone. These abandoned wells pose a serious risk to ourselves, our family, and the world around us. The funding received from the Infrastructure Law will benefit the current population but also future generations to come.
We at Biby Law Firm are ecstatic about this news concerning the capping of oil and gas wells. Our attorneys have long represented clients in Tulsa injured in and around oil fields and wells, and we’re encouraged about the thought of fewer people suffering harm around these abandoned wells.
However, if you have been hurt due to an unmarked abandoned oil well, you should contact us, and we can discuss how you can secure compensation for your injuries. Call us at 918-574-8458 or use our contact form. Initial consultations are always free.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.