By R. Lee Vail
On April 28, 2011, Governor Bobby Jindal declared a State of Emergency as a result of growing concern over the predicted crest of the Mississippi River well above flood stage in many areas. Consistent with his authority, on May 13, 2011, James Welsh, Commissioner of Conservation, also issued an emergency and administrative order. It is expected that substantial flooding in the state will likely lead to adverse effects on many oilfield sites which could result in serious threats to public safety and the environment. The order specifically applies to following throughout the state:
- Oilfield sites – including injection wells
- Other facilities – including commercial E&P waste disposal and transfer stations
- Structures and Pipelines
Ordered actions are both general calls for alert monitoring of the situation and a more specific list of necessary steps (as appropriate). The Order contains a practical, common sense mandate, to keep track of forthcoming proclamations, orders, warnings, predictions, forecasts, directives or other communications from federal, state and local authorities and to monitor water levels and weather activity. Additionally, the order requires operators to take all necessary steps and perform all necessary actions to avoid damage to the environment or threats to life or safety, including the following, where appropriate:
- Empty petroleum tanks and re-fill with water
- Remove chemicals from sites
- Remove or secure loose items
- Ensure that storm chokes or downhole plugs are installed in wells
- Empty active pits of E&P waste
- Shut in and secure wells where necessary
- Protect sites from stray debris
The above list of actions is discretionary, tasking each operator with the duty to determine which actions are necessary as each operator is in the best position to assess the potential risks and dangers.
The Order also requires notification to the Office of Conservation within 12 hours should an operator shut down one of the covered facilities. The Order will extend for 120 days, unless modified or extended. The order may be found here.