Oklahoma well operator targeted by House Democrats in climate probe

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Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have targeted another oil and gas company over environmental and climate claims and it could involve wells in Oklahoma.

They put Diversified Energy Co., the owner of more than 1,500 oil and gas wells in Oklahoma and Texas and also the largest owner of wells in the country, in their target sights for methane emissions.

The Democrats on the committee launched the probe contending the company’s business model is a risk to taxpayers and also to the global climate. It was just a year ago when Diversified Energy acquired 1,500 Oklahoma and Texas wells in a $240 million deal with ConocoPhillips. The total added to Diversified’s70,000 wells it owns and operates from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma and Texas.

The Democrat members sent a nine-page letter to Diversified CEO Rusty Hutson Jr. asking him for information about the firm’s methane emissions and business practices, reported Bloomberg.

Since Democrats are not in control of the House, the committee is led by Republicans. The Democrats can only ask for information from the company since they do not have subpoena power. What the Democrats are focusing on is emissions, especially methane leaks from old wells acquired by Diversified.

“Diversified Energy’s strategy of leaving thousands of marginal wells unplugged for decades and potentially underestimating future cleanup costs could undermine important efforts to fight climate change,” wrote the Democrats.

“As the largest owner and purchaser of oil and gas wells in the United States, Diversified Energy is responsible for remediating a substantial share of the country’s aging oil and gas wells, but we are concerned that your company may be vastly underestimating well cleanup costs.”

Diversified offered no public comment about the action of the Democrats but earlier in the year, CEO Huson said his company had made “ambitious environmental commitments, transparent reporting and demonstrable progress against our stated targets and goals.”

The Alabama-based company is reported to be the nation’s 22nd-largest gas producer. Yet a report by the Clean Air Task Force which used EPA estimates, claimed Diversified was the fourth-largest methane emitter among oil and gas producers last year.