Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana - Who Owns the Well?

Thanks to reader bdstroid for commenting on yesterday's post that Lobo Operating, Inc. of Covington, LA is, well, no longer operating.  So the question is - who owns the well that is apparently leaking in the June 10 photographs taken by Gulf Restoration Network?  Some updated findings:

Using the Louisiana state data site, SONRIS, we've learned that the well in question has, in name at least, changed hands three times. According to SONRIS it was drilled in 2004 by Amerada Hess; bought in September 2009 by The Harvest Group, LLC of Covington, LA; then taken over in 2008 by Lobo Operating, Inc. of Covington (apparently the successor corporation to The Harvest Group). Dial Lobo's phone number now and you get a voicemail greeting for Saratoga Resources, Inc.  Saratoga is the successor to (or purchaser of) Lobo and Harvest; all three entities filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.

Saratoga emerged from Chapter 11 a year later. We don't know for sure if Saratoga owns the apparently leaking well, but it seems likely.  This LLC shell-game with offshore drilling sure can be confusing -- we call it Responsible Party Whack-a-Mole.  And it sure does make us uneasy to learn about small, bankrupt companies responsible for operating and maintaining offshore oil and gas wells, when other livelihoods are put at risk from both chronic pollution and catastrophic spills.

We hope the Coast Guard is using the info we publish, but we haven't had any direct contact with them. Gulf Restoration Network has provided info directly to the Coast Guard for this leak, which as far as we can tell has not been officially reported to the NRC by the responsible party as required by law.

We're continuing to look for better imagery of the area, and the Gulf Monitoring Consortium will continue to coordinate our efforts to investigate and publish information about pollution incidents like this one.

2 comments:

  1. Responsible Party Whack-a-Mole - this is why corporations have more rights than individuals in our democracy...

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  2. Yup that's about right as far as well ownership goes. As long as it is producing the wells ownership is carefully guarded by a legal team in New York.

    As soon as the well "loses it's luster" it becomes an ugly orphan subject to multiple layers of dubious title documents.

    Same thing for mines and gas production.

    It's a well known industry tactic to avoid the clean up.

    With a high percentage of wells in the Gulf now aging, the ownership game will be one that we'll see played over and over.

    Kudos to the monitors for this one by the way.

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