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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

DEP COMPLETES 12 ABANDONED OIL AND GAS WELL PLUGGING PROJECTS IN 2008

Crews Plug 173 Wells That Threaten Water Supplies, Public Health

HARRISBURG – The Department of Environmental Protection continued its work to protect the public’s health and safety in 2008 by plugging 173 abandoned oil and gas wells that were found in 11 counties across the state.

“Today, oil and gas well operators cannot leave wells in a condition that would pose a risk to the public, but unfortunately thousands of wells were abandoned before people understood the environmental and public health risks,” said Environmental Protection acting Secretary John Hanger. “Abandoned wells serve as conduits that allow oil and mine drainage to contaminate ground water and also allow natural gas to infiltrate buildings, creating the potential for explosions.

Our efforts to properly seal these wells will ensure that they no longer present a danger to area residents.” The commonwealth invested nearly $3 million last year to close these wells as part of 12 projects. DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management awarded another 10 contracts in 2008—most of which will be completed next year—to plug 144 additional abandoned oil and gas wells.

Pennsylvania has the most abandoned wells in the Appalachian region and is one of the top five states nationally. The department has documented more than 8,700 wells throughout the state that were abandoned prior to passage of modern oil and gas drilling regulations. Abandoned wells can be found in many settings from residential backyards to remote hillsides, and well-plugging costs can vary depending on terrain and the age and depth of the well.

The wells plugged in 2008 were found in western and north-central Pennsylvania by DEP inspectors and local citizens who are working to locate and map more wells in the region. Since the first commercial oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, DEP estimates as many as 350,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the commonwealth, with many of those wells having been abandoned without proper plugging. Pennsylvania produced half of the world’s oil until the East Texas oil boom of 1901.

Since then, the commonwealth has become an important area for natural gas production. DEP processed 7,927 drilling permits in 2008 and expects to issue more than 11,000 permits in 2009. “Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas industry is booming with nearly 71,000 producing wells and many new wells anticipated,” Hanger said. “The expensive environmental damage caused by the unregulated early days of America’s oil and gas industry reminds us to permit and monitor drilling operations to protect our land and water resources while helping the commonwealth to benefit from the significant economic opportunities before us.”

Funding for well plugging comes from surcharges on well-drilling permits issued in Pennsylvania and from the Growing Greener II program—a $625 million initiative that was proposed by Governor Rendell and overwhelming approved by voters in 2005. This innovative program provides significant funding to continue cleanup of orphaned and abandoned wells and improve the health of Pennsylvania’s 86,000 miles of waterways.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Oil and Gas.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a list, by county, of the 12 abandoned well plugging contracts completed in 2008: ALLEGHENY AND WESTMORELAND COUNTIES Sewickley Hills Borough, Sewickley Township: 2 wells - $113,366.60

ARMSTRONG COUNTY Kiskiminetas Township: 2 wells - $188,825.23

CLARION COUNTY Farmington Township: 6 wells -- $86,020.00

CLINTON COUNTY Chapman Township: 49 wells -- $916,265.00

CRAWFORD COUNTY

Randolph Township, Wayne Township: 6 wells -- $45,802.11

ERIE COUNTY

Erie City, Harborcreek Township, Lake City Borough, Millcreek Township: 7 wells -- $75,798.85

MCKEAN COUNTY

Bradford Township, Corydon Township: 8 wells -- $49,231.30

Lafayette Township, Lewis Run Borough: 9 wells -- $48,861.00

Wetmore Township: 11 wells -- $210,377.37

POTTER COUNTY

Ulysses Township: 1 well -- $151,921.11

VENANGO COUNTY

Cherrytree Township: 61 wells -- $545,949.52

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Amwell Township, North Strabane Township, Smith Township, South Strabane Township: 11 wells -- $523,841.19

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