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Forgotten oil and gas wells linger, leaking toxic chemicals

A wildflower blows in the wind near an old pump jack on Molly Rooke's ranch, Tuesday, May 18,...
A wildflower blows in the wind near an old pump jack on Molly Rooke's ranch, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, near Refugio, Texas. Oil and gas drilling began on the ranch in the 1920s and there were dozens of orphaned wells that needed to be plugged for safety and environmental protection. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)(Eric Gay | AP)
Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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CRANE, Texas (AP) — There are about 2 million abandoned oil and gas wells nationwide that haven’t been properly plugged with cement.

Many of the wells are releasing methane, which is a greenhouse gas containing about 86 times the climate-warming power of carbon dioxide over two decades.

Some are leaking chemicals such as benzene, which is a known carcinogen, into fields and groundwater.

Regulators don’t know where hundreds of thousands of the abandoned wells are.

That’s because many were drilled before modern regulations and record-keeping systems were established.

In recent years, abandoned wells have been found under brush deep in forests and beneath driveways in suburbia.

Ashley Williams Watt walks near a wellhead and flowline at her ranch, Friday, July 9, 2021,...
Ashley Williams Watt walks near a wellhead and flowline at her ranch, Friday, July 9, 2021, near Crane, Texas. The wells on Watt's property seem to be unplugging themselves. Some are leaking dangerous chemicals into the ground, which are seeping into her cattle's drinking water. And she doesn't know how long it's been going on. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)(Eric Gay | AP)

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