Thursday, October 27, 2022

Bill Goes To Governor Creating Well Plugging Grant Program; Senate, House Again Fail To Address Woefully Inadequate Conventional Well Plugging Bonding

On October 26, the Senate and House gave final approval to
House Bill 2528 (Struzzi-R- Indiana) that would set aside 20 percent of the new federal funding to plug conventional oil and gas wells for a new Orphan Well Plugging Grant Program.

The bill amends language allowed to become law in July in House Bill 2644-- Act 96 to fix significant problems with the grant program that conflicted with the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law well plugging program making it totally unworkable.

The new changes also include provisions prohibiting grants going to conventional oil and gas companies that have any unresolved violations of environmental laws and regulations, something missing entirely from the July statute.

The Senate passed House Bill 2528 by a vote of 47 to 2 and Senate changes were concurred in by the House 198-0.  

The bill now goes to the Governor for his action.

Ban On Increasing Bond Amounts Remains

In spite of the fact House Bill 2528 amends the same section of law, no changes were made in the provisions of Act 96 from July that prohibits DEP from increasing well plugging bond amounts for conventional oil and gas operators for 10 years.

That law also makes clear only the General Assembly can increase that amount, not DEP by regulation.

The current $2,500 per well or $25,000 blanket bond for an unlimited number of conventional oil and gas wells is nowhere near the up to $70,000 or more it may cost taxpayers to plug wells.  [Note: The $70,000 figure comes from House Bill 2528.]

DEP records show the agency has less than $15 per well available to plug the over 100,500 active conventional oil and gas wells that now have permits because of woefully inadequate well plugging bonding requirements.  Read more here.

Conventional oil and gas wells drilled before April 18, 1985, which is most of them, cannot be required to have any well plugging bond by law.

This is all especially troubling because oil and gas well abandonment is pervasive in the conventional oil and gas industry and accelerated during 2022.  Read more here.

The bottomline is state taxpayers are on the hook to pay for over $5.1 billion in well plugging and cleanup costs, but even that estimate is low.

Related Articles:

-- U.S. Dept. Of Interior Notified DEP A Republican Bill Allowed To Become Law In July May Block Funding For New Federal Conventional Oil & Gas Well Plugging Program  [PaEN]

-- DEP Concerned About Impact Of New Law Blocking Conventional Oil & Gas Well Bonding On New Federal Well Plugging Funds, Regulating Waste Injection Wells [PaEN]

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

-- DEP Issued NOVs To Conventional Oil & Gas Companies For Abandoning 55 Wells Without Plugging Them During September Alone, A Dramatic Increase In New Well Abandonments     [PaEN]

-- Only 15 Out Of 256 Conventional Oil & Gas Operators Who Abandoned Wells Without Plugging Them Were Fined By DEP; Small Penalties No Deterrent To Future Abandonments   [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP: PA General Energy Cited For More Water Pollution Violations, Blocking The Whole Width Of Loyalsock Creek At Gas Pipeline/Water Withdrawal Construction Site In Lycoming County [PaEN]

-- DEP Permit Notices -- Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities  [PaEN] 

-- Senate, House Pass Massive, 20-Year Taxpayer Subsidies For Natural Gas, Hydrogen And Petrochemical Industries In Hours With No Public Accountability Or Environmental Safeguards [PaEN]

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: State Insists On Paying Polluters  [PaEN]

-- Scranton Times/Republican Herald Editorial: Legislators Like Plastics, Expect More  [PaEN]

-- Senate Committee OK’d Bills Rebranding Fossil Fuels As ‘Low Emission,’ Eliminating Incentives For EVs; Fails To End Ban On Raising Conventional Oil & Gas Well Bonding; Reports Out EHB Nominee Sarah Clark  [PaEN]

-- Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group: Potential Impacts Of Shale Gas Development Forest Fragmentation On Tioga State Forest Birds - By Dr. Robert M. Ross  [PaEN]

-- DCNR Leased 176 Acres Of Susquehanna River Submerged Land To SWN Natural Gas Production Company In Susquehanna County For $704,000  [PaEN]

-- Public Herald: Public Records Show PA Has 10,543 Injection Wells Where Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Often Used For Enhanced Recovery Of Oil & Gas

-- Penn State Research: PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' Persist Through Wastewater Treatment, May Enter Crops - By Penn State News  [PaEN]

-- A Study Finding Microplastics In 100% Of Exceptional Value, High Quality, Class A Trout Streams Sampled In PA Is Disturbing To Wildlife Advocates  [PaEN]

-- National Fuel Gas Requests PUC To Approve 9.2% Increase In Base Delivery Charge; Separate Cost Of Gas Up 127.8% Since May 2021 [PaEN]

-- PUC Approves 9% Increase In The Basic Monthly Bill For Typical PECO Natural Gas Division Customers; On Top Of An 103.2% Increase In Cost Of Natural Gas [PaEN]

-- Ohio River Valley Institute Blog: Natural Gas Costs Are Principal Driver Of Current Inflation; Increasing Gas Production For Export Also Increases Prices And Volatility

[Posted: October 27, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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