Leaking Oil Pits in Louisiana Largely Unregulated
Louisiana is one of the largest energy-producing states in America. An abundance of leaking oil pits in Louisiana happened as a result.
Lawsuits have been filed by landowners against Louisiana’s energy companies for leaving issues of oil and tar pits unresolved on their property. The owners leased this property to the oil companies for oil extraction and profit. The oil companies have a responsibility for returning the sites to a fair condition as promised in the leases. After extractions of oil were completed, the land used was often left in horrendous, hazardous conditions. Upon finishing their dirty work at these various sites, the land was all-too often left in a completely different state than it was originally leased it for. Huge land pits were left behind, filled with a toxic substance called brine. Brine is an often radioactive, liquid gas byproduct. Brine’s salinity is ten times greater than saltwater, and is laced with chemicals like lead, oil, benzene, chromium, chloride, and other known carcinogens. These pits are regularly unlined, causing leaking oil pits in Louisiana that allow chemicals to seep into nearby land.
Pools of Hazard
Environmentalists warned of the danger of brine pits as early as 1932. Eighty-three years later, not much seems to have changed. In 1980, Louisiana lawmakers ended the practice of storing brine in unlined pits, but the environmental damage was too late. Nearby vegetation was already dead and water was already contaminated. Even when these pits are lined, seepage is still common and regulations on these pits are rarely enforced. Just a quick view of these oil pits shows that there is something that is highly dangerous taking place on the fragile Louisiana landscape.
Unsettling Political Partnerships
However, allied lawmakers often “overlooked” these environmental contaminations. Oil companies continue to violate the new rules in place in order to cut energy costs at the expense of Louisiana residents. The Environmental Protection Agency structured their hazardous waste regulations in 1978 as a response to Congress’ Clean Air Act released in 1970.
Among the EPA’s list of “low pollutant” and “non-hazardous” substances were: brine from oil pits, drilling muds, fracking fluid, and other oil and gas drilling wastes. As a result of this classification, these toxic byproducts were not as closely regulated or restricted as they imperatively needed to be.
Many speculate that this was done due to private oil interests of the lawmakers and the coincidental partnerships for campaign support that arose. Oil companies have become so big and powerful; they are a political power themselves. Some have even stated that in Louisiana, a legislator has no choice- politicians have to be pro-oil.
In 1987, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was established due to growing concern about chemical and pollutant release by industrial operations. The EPCRA Act mandated that industries disclose their released chemicals to the public annually. Unsurprisingly, the oil and gas drilling industry has never been penalized for refusing to submit their full information.
What we see is the federal government leaving the responsibility of disciplining these companies to the state governments. If the state of Louisiana has known interests that conflict with public safety, you can guess what happens (or rather, doesn’t happen) to these unresolved, abandoned leaking oil pits in Louisiana. You can join Clean Water Land and Coast’s fight for resolution of these oil pits in Louisiana and take our quick survey to help fight for coastal restoration.