Oil infrastructure springs dangerous leaks from Texas to California


Welcome to Climate Point, your weekly guide to climate, energy and environment news from around the Golden State and the country. In Palm Springs, Calif., I’m Mark Olalde.

There’s been a disaster brewing in Tampa Bay. After a leak was detected at an old phosphate plant’s wastewater pond, 316 homes were evacuated because officials feared the toxic mess could burst through a containment wall. The Tampa Bay Times reports that, to keep the wastewater from breaking containment and risking lives, pumps were deployed to hurriedly siphon off the liquid and send it into the bay. At least 165 million gallons of HRK Holdings’ waste have so far ended up there.

Just how bad will the environmental degradation be? “That’s like dumping 50,000 bags of fertilizer into the bay all at once,” Ed Sherwood, director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, told the newspaper. Expect algal blooms to head down the coast.

Now, for additional important reporting about the heavy industries upon which we have come to rely…

United States Congressman Vern Buchanan toured Piney Point Monday, Apr. 5, 2021, getting a look at the breach in the containment wall, the pumping outflow and Port Manatee where the wastewater is being pumped into Tampa Bay.


Polluting the Permian. The issue of orphaned oil and gas wells is becoming increasingly popular in our nation’s capital, so this new investigation from Grist and the Texas Observer comes at an opportune time. They looked at end-of-life fossil fuel production in Texas and New Mexico in an attempt to quantify the consequences of leaving more than 100,000 oil and gas wells idle, including 7,000 orphaned and another 13,000 they predict soon will be left orphaned. They predict a cleanup bill of $1 billion, although that’s conservative. In this deeply reported series that’s well worth your time, they’ll walk you through those impacts, explain their novel and impressive orphan well algorithm, reveal a toothless regulatory structure and introduce you to a researcher who’s hell-bent on chronicling the methane leaking from these wells.

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