July 24, 2010 - Over the past fiscal year, the state's Oilfield Site Restoration Program has closed and erased from sight 177 orphaned wells and related production equipment in Caddo, Union, DeSoto, St. Martin, Assumption and Terrebonne parishes.
But there's an untold number of other potentially hazardous sites around the state waiting to be cleaned up after oil and gas exploration and production companies walked away, leaving behind wells, production facilities, rusty pipes and tank batteries.
Kjel Brothen, director of the program under the state Department of Natural Resources' Office of Conservation, said the state identifies and prioritizes as many sites as it can each year with the $4 million that's paid into a fund by companies producing oil and gas in the state.
An orphan well or site is one that the company responsible for it cannot be located or legally determined. If the responsible party is identified, the state seeks reimbursement for all costs.
Many of the sites are away from residential areas, Brothen said, but some are in neighborhoods.
"Typically, homeowners are very happy to get equipment out of their backyards," he said.