The Corner

The Feds’ Own Superfund Sites

Between 1944 and 1981, the federal government, in the shape of the Navy and USGS, drilled over a hundred wells in western Alaska. The area covered is directly comparable to the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, both in oil-and-gas resources as well as the diversity of flora and fauna. These wells are now the responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management or, in the case of 17 of them, have been transferred to native ownership.

Every one of these wells is or has been out of compliance with Alaskan state regulations for oil wells. In all probability, they are out of compliance with federal regulations too.

According to Alaskan state authorities, at least 26 were left open to the atmosphere and filled with drilling fluids. At least 44 have wood, metal, plastic, glass, and concrete debris on site. At least 17 are filled with diesel. And three can no longer even be found — one under landslide at Colville River’s edge; two in lakes, meaning that it is impossible to confirm their condition. On at least 44 of the sites there is wood, metal, and/or concrete debris strewn about. Alaskan regulations require abandoned wells to be cut off five feet below ground level, but only 16 of the 136 wells are properly plugged.

It should go without saying that if these wells had been drilled and left like this by a private company, that company would face fines and other compliance penalties. Yet the BLM refuses to clean up its mess.

So much for this Administration’s environmental record.


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