Thursday, June 2, 2022

Who Is Protecting Taxpayers? House Committee Meets June 7 On Bills To Preempt Any Increase In Oil & Gas Well Bonding Amounts, Give Away Plugging Contracts With No Regard For Cost

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to meet on June 7 to consider legislation to take away the Environmental Quality Board’s authority to increase conventional oil and gas well bonding amounts to the current taxpayer cost of plugging and continue the exemption from any bonding for wells drilled before 1985 (which is most of them).

The legislation-- House Bill 2644 (Causer-R-Cameron)-- would also set the bonding amounts for conventional wells at $2,500 per well, when the average cost to taxpayers of plugging conventional wells is $33,000.

The bill also allows operators to file a blanket bond of a total of $25,000 for all the operator’s wells in the state, of which individual operators have hundreds.

DEP records show conventional oil and gas companies were issued over 4,270 notices of violation for attempting to abandon oil and gas wells without plugging them between 2016 and 2021.  Abandoning wells is pervasive in the industry.  Read more here.

During the first quarter of 2022 DEP issued 77 notices of violation to conventional operators for attempting to abandon their wells without plugging them, and those were the ones DEP caught.  Read more here.

Taxpayers are now liable for paying over $5.1 billion to plug conventional oil and gas wells operators have already abandoned or are way unbonding to pay plugging costs.  Read more here.

The new well plugging program established in the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act requires states to review their regulations to prevent new wells from becoming abandoned wells.  Making sure well plugging amounts are adequate to cover the taxpayer cost of plugging them is a big part of that prevention effort.  Read more here.

By preventing any increase in the woefully inadequate bonding amounts DEP has now, this legislation gets in the way of that requirement and further burdens taxpayers.

The bill would also set aside 20 percent of the federal money Pennsylvania is receiving from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act for conventional oil and gas well plugging to be used as grants to companies interested in plugging wells with few qualifications and no check on whether they have outstanding environmental or other contracting violations. Read more here.

The bill also sets limits on how deep a well must be plugged in terms of feet not in terms of the effectiveness of the plug in cutting off possible routes to contaminate ground or surface water and preventing methane emissions.

The bill also provides well plugging companies with civil immunity from any damage it causes and for any violations of environmental laws and regulations.

A second bill-- House Bill 2528 (Struzzi-R-Indiana)-- would mandate DEP award oil and gas well plugging contracts to Pennsylvania contractors, with no regard for cost to taxpayers.

House Bill 2644 and House Bill 2528 are total giveaways to the conventional oil and gas industry and continue to make taxpayers liable for cleaning up billions of dollars of the environmental mess they leave behind.

The meeting will be held in Room 205 of the Ryan Office Building at the Call of the Chair, which means there is no specific time set for the meeting.   Click Here to watch online.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to:

Related Articles:

-- New Abandoned Wells: DEP Records Show Abandoning Oil & Gas Wells Without Plugging Them Is Pervasive In Conventional Drilling Industry; Who Is Protecting Taxpayers? 

-- Quarterly Report: DEP Issued 77 Notices Of Violations To Conventional Drillers, 8 To Shale Gas Drillers For Attempting To Abandon Wells Without Plugging Them  

-- DEP To Prohibit Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers With Unresolved Environmental Violations From Getting Conventional Well Plugging Contracts; 133 Companies Interested In Doing Well Plugging Work 

-- Financial Assurance, Plugging Regulations To Be Reviewed To Prevent New Abandoned Oil & Gas Wells Under Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Plugging Program 

[Posted: June 2, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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