A battle over who is responsible for cleaning up hundreds of oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is quietly playing out in a bankruptcy court in southern Texas. The contestants in this game of fossil fuel infrastructure hot potato: Fieldwood Energy, an offshore drilling company attempting to offload more than $7 billion in environmental cleanup responsibilities; a group of oil majors including Chevron, Marathon Oil, and BP; and the Department of the Interior.
Fieldwood has declared bankruptcy, and a court is considering the company’s plan to split its assets, moving older legacy wells and drilling rigs that are expensive to clean up into two entities while creating a new company — appropriately named NewCo — to purchase the more profitable assets. The company proposes outright abandoning a fourth bucket of assets consisting of more than 1,170 wells, 280 pipelines, and 270 drilling platforms. Aging wells and drilling platforms pose multiple risks to the environment and human safety, including oil and gas leaks and explosions.