100 plugged and 300,000+ to go; Abandoned well cleanup effort jumps with federal money
Gov. Josh Shapiro says his administration has plugged more abandoned oil and gas wells in the last 10 months than the state government has in the previous six years.
Shapiro celebrated the 100th well plugged this year at a state park in Washington County on Wednesday.
More wells are being plugged because of new federal money.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 gave $4.7 billion to clean up old wells across the country. It’s part of Biden’s push to cut the country’s methane emissions, which have a much higher warming factor than carbon dioxide. Leaky wells can also cause health problems for people who live nearby.
Pennsylvania has gotten $25 million so far. The Department of Environmental Protection has awarded contracts to plug 227 wells.
“None of this would be possible without federal funding and all the support that we’re getting from the Biden Administration, which is pretty extraordinary,” DEP Secretary Rich Negrin said.
DEP has documented around 30,000 orphan wells. But the Shapiro Administration estimates there are more than 300,000 of them in Pennsylvania that contribute 8 percent of the state’s methane emissions.
Most of those were drilled before modern regulations by companies that have since gone out of business.
Shapiro said he is asking DEP to go after companies that have not cleaned up their wells.
“We will aggressively pursue these operators that abandoned their responsibilities and do our best to make sure they pay what they owe. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill just because a company thought it could get away with cutting corners,” Shapiro said.
The Shapiro Administration budgeted an additional $104 million in federal funding for well-plugging in the 2023-24 fiscal year. DEP has estimated 1,389 wells could be plugged with that amount.
DEP said the cost to plug wells has ranged from $10,000 to $800,000, depending on complications, location, depth, and the number of wells per contract.
The state had been budgeting around $1 million annually to clean up old wells.