Zombie Wells, Part 1: Texas Oil Wells Are Leaking Toxic Waste, and No One Wants to Pay to Clean It
Legacy oil wells in Texas have reanimated, causing environmental concerns and spewing toxic mixtures of crude oil, salty water, and methane from decades-old wells. These unplugged wells, known as "zombie wells," are emitting noxious fumes and climate-warming gases, poisoning groundwater aquifers, and posing environmental hazards. While there is no precise count of leaking wells, estimates suggest there could be around 500,000 plugged wells leaking nationwide. In addition, the nation is grappling with over 120,000 orphaned wells with no responsible owner, and many more undocumented wells are yet to be discovered. Addressing this costly problem requires federal funds, and the Biden administration has allocated $25 million to plug 800 wells in Texas. However, plugging wells is becoming more expensive, and the total number of unplugged wells remains a significant concern for climate change.