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Caring for the Orphans: Approaches for Mitigating Fugitive Methane Emissions From Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

June 2017

Citation: 47 ELR 10529

Issue: 6

Author: Cameron Rotblat

Recent scientific research indicates fugitive methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells may contribute more to climate change than methane leakage from oil and gas production. Yet current orphaned well regulations fail to ensure that such wells are plugged in a timely fashion. This Article applies domestic comparative law to identify three promising alternative approaches to the current system of orphan well reclamation funds: cooperative federal grant programs, joint and several liability of potentially responsible parties, and carbon offsets credits. By providing more equitable funding, expanded liability, and market-based incentives, these approaches can complement existing efforts and help mitigate fugitive methane emissions from orphaned wells.

Cameron Rotblat is a student at Yale Law School, J.D. expected 2018.

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