Letter: Federal money for well closures is limited; find biggest risks first

Alaskans agree that improperly abandoned oil and gas wells on federal or state property should be addressed.  But before spending potentially tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up and properly close a handful of remote “legacy” wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (see “BLM: Not trying to avoid well clean-up in Alaska,” March 7), the federal government should decide if those wells represent higher environmental and safety risks than, for example, many of the tens of thousands of improperly abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Both NPR-A and Gulf wells more than three miles offshore are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, and federal funding for well closures is limited. As Americans, we should all demand that the federal government address the greatest risks first, and in a cost-effective manner, even if the top priorities are not in our backyard.

 — Lois Epstein, P.E.

Arctic Program director

The Wilderness Society