Environmental group applauds proposed rule updates for flaring, idle wells

By: - July 20, 2023 4:12 pm
A gas flare from a petroleum refinery in Norco, Louisiana.

A gas flare from a petroleum refinery in Norco, Louisiana. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Proposed rules released Wednesday by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources are being described by environmental advocates as a “critical step” toward reducing routine gas flaring of active oil and gas wells and pushing operators to plug the more than estimated 20,000 idle wells throughout the state. 

Representatives with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a nonprofit advocacy group, say the proposed rules are an improvement over current state regulations for natural gas venting and flaring because they would lock in certain prohibitions around flaring while also removing certain exceptions. 

Venting and flaring of active wells are seen as a significant source of gas waste. A recent EDF analysis found that in 2019, the practice wasted $16 million worth of energy resources. A primary component of natural gas is methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas. 

As for idle wells, which are ones that no longer produce oil but haven’t been sealed, the proposed rules would basically implement a fee scale whereby violators would face increasing fines. Currently they only have to pay a flat fee of $250 per well annually.  

Unplugged, idled wells can lead to leaks that can contaminate soil, groundwater and air quality. 

Louisiana has more than 28,000 oil and gas wells idling and in danger of becoming orphaned, according to the EDF. 

Orphaned oil wells are one problem; inactive wells are potentially much bigger

“Gov. Edwards and the Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation have taken a critical step to protect Louisiana taxpayers, create jobs across the state and safeguard the health of our families,” EDF state director Liz Russell said in a prepared statement. “Solutions to address waste from routine venting and flaring and prevent everyday Louisianans from footing the bill to clean up after industry are common sense, cost-effective measures we can’t afford not to take.”

The public comment period on the proposed rules ends at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 21.


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Terry L. Jones, Floodlight
Terry L. Jones, Floodlight

Terry is the Louisiana Enterprise Reporter for Floodlight News. He is a Baton Rouge native and has lived and worked there for the last decade. Before joining Floodlight, he was the City Hall reporter for The Advocate. He has covered crime, local politics and environmental issues in the Louisiana capital and the surrounding area. Terry is a graduate of Southern University. In 2020, he was awarded a reporting fellowship from Investigative Reporters and Editors and uncovered how the East Baton Rouge Parish Office of Community Development mismanaged federal money meant for affordable housing. Jones also moonlights as a writer of young adult fiction.