Friday, May 26, 2023

Citizens Voice Editorial: Renew Bonds To Close, Cleanup Conventional Oil, Gas Wells

This editorial first appeared in the
Citizens Voice on May 26, 2023--

If you doubt that the coal and railroad industries once dominated the Pennsylvania Legislature, look around. 

Evidence abounds, more than 70 years after the end of large-scale mining, that the state government allowed mine operators to pollute with impunity.

Now, as pollutants from abandoned mines gush into streams and culm piles still tower over many towns, too many lawmakers remain reluctant to ensure that extractive industries clean up their messes.

In 2022, the Republican majorities in both legislative houses stripped an independent state board of much of its authority to make some gas drillers accountable for closed wells.

The wells in question are “conventional” shallow vertical wells that tap gas relatively near the surface, rather than the deep, horizontally drilled wells characteristic of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. 

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, 131 shallow conventional wells were drilled in 2021.

To obtain a well permit, a driller must supply a bond to cover closure and cleanup costs, akin to a landlord requiring a security deposit from a prospective tenant. If a driller fails to properly cap a well, the DEP can seize the bond to pay for the work.

Prior to the 2022 law, the state Environmental Quality Board was empowered to review the bond requirements and set new amounts every two years. 

But the new law eliminates that authority and freezes the bond cost at $2,500 per well. According to the DEP, the median cost to cap a well is $33,000, and it can be as high as $400,000.

Bonds for the new generation of deep wells range from a minimum of $35,000 to $500,000, depending on technical specifications for each well.

Statewide, there are thousands of uncapped wells from earlier generations of drilling that spew climate-warming methane into the atmosphere and often pose physical dangers. 

They will cost billions of taxpayer dollars to cap. And they exist because of an earlier generation of irresponsible legislators who refused to hold drillers responsible.

Now, lawmakers should pass a pending bill to repeal the free pass that lap-dog legislators gave the industry just a year ago.

PA Oil & Gas Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Struggle To Plug Tatonka Oil Co. LLC’s Nancy 13 Conventional Well Leaking Gas, Production Wastewater Since 2018; Citizen Complaint Finds ‘Bubbling’ Gas Well  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - May 20   [PaEN] 

PA Oil & Gas Compliance Reports

-- Feature: 60 Years Of Fracking, 20 Years Of Shale Gas: Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Industrial Infrastructure Is Hiding In Plain Sight [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owners Failed To File Annual Production/Waste Generation Reports For 61,655 Wells; Attorney General Continues Investigation Of Road Dumping Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issued 754 Notices Of Violation For Defective Oil & Gas Well Casing, Cementing, The Fundamental Protection Needed To Prevent Gas Migration, Groundwater & Air Contamination, Explosions  [PaEN]

-- DEP Report Finds: Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Routinely Abandon Wells; Fail To Report How Millions Of Gallons Of Waste Is Disposed; And Non-Compliance Is An ‘Acceptable Norm’  [PaEN]

-- DEP 2021 Oil & Gas Program Annual Report Shows Conventional Oil & Gas Operators Received A Record 610 Notices Of Violation For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industry Has Record Year: Cost, Criminal Convictions Up; $3.1 Million In Penalties Collected; Record Number Of Violations Issued; Major Compliance Issues Uncovered; Evidence Of Health Impacts Mounts  [PaEN] 

[Posted: May 26, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

Related Articles - Conventional Drilling:

-- EDF: Pennsylvania Has 55,000 Oil/Gas Wells At High Risk Of Being Abandoned; 51,000 Wells At Risk Of Being Transferred To Low Solvency Owners; Current Conventional Well Owners Abandon 561 Wells A Year, On Average  [PaEN] 

-- House Hearing: Let’s Work Together To Make Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Practices Cleaner, Respect Property Rights, Protect Taxpayers And Prevent New Abandoned Wells  [PaEN]

-- Marcellus Drilling News: 3 Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Groups File Lawsuit To Block Rule Limiting VOC/Methane Emissions From Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- DCED Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Advisory Council Feb. 16 Meeting Agenda Includes Discussion Of Poor Compliance Record Of Industry, Status Of Regulations Updates, Challenge To VOC/Methane Regs  [Background on key issues]   [PaEN]

-- EDF: Conventional Gas Wells In Allegheny National Forest Leaked Over 6 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas In 2019; Conventional Operators Seek To Block Methane Limits  [PaEN]

-- DEP To Submit Letter Of Intent To EPA As Early As This Week For Primacy To Regulate Underground Injection Wells  [PaEN]

-- Triumph Township, Warren County Advertising For 100,000 Gallons Of ‘Salt Brine’ To Dump On Township Roads  [PaEN] 

-- Guest Essay: Conventional vs Unconventional Oil & Gas Wells - Not As Different As You Might Think - By Laurie Barr, Save Our Streams PA  [PaEN]

PA Environment Digest

-- Oil & Gas Industrial Facility Impacts

Related Articles This Week:

-- Democrats On House Environmental Committee Report Out Bill To Help Prevent The Routine Abandonment Of 561 Conventional Oil/Gas Wells A Year  [PaEN]

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: Renew Bonds To Close, Cleanup Conventional Oil, Gas Wells  [PaEN]

-- Republican Herald Editorial: Hold Conventional Oil/Gas Industry Responsible For Capping Wells

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Meets June 15 On Water Withdrawal Projects, Including 12 Related To Shale Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approved 36 Shale Gas Well Drilling Pad Water Use Permits In Bradford, Clearfield, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Signs Consent Order Including $10 Million In Penalties, Local Payments With Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County To Resolve Air Quality Violations; Plant To Restart May 24  [PaEN]

-- Things Are Different In The House: Hearing On Hydrogen Hubs Became ‘Democracy’ vs. ‘Open Mic Night’  [PaEN] 

-- Observer-Reporter Editorial: Court Drills Down On Environment - Environmental Quality A Right Not A Luxury [The Heart Of The Unconventional Shale Gas Drilling Industry]  [PaEN]  

-- Warren Times Editorial: Keeping A Natural Lifeline Pure With Environmental Rights Amendment - Environmental Quality A Right Not A Luxury [The Heart Of The Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Industry]  [PaEN] 

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: PA Supreme Court Reaffirms Environmental Quality Is A Right Not A Luxury In Shale Gas Drilling Ruling   [PaEN]

[Posted: May 26, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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