OH Orphan Well Bill Wins Praise from Both Drillers & Enviros

Pennsylvania state officials estimate there are as many as 200,000 abandoned (i.e. “orphan”) oil and gas wells in the state–the vast majority of them conventional wells drilled over 50 years ago. Most of them are not mapped or known. Some of them are hazards for shale drillers who stumble across them when drilling new wells. If you drill horizontally and clip an old/abandoned well, it becomes like an elevator pumping fluids and gas to the surface. Not good. Everyone is committed to finding and marking and capping these old wells–the question is, how do you pay for it? In PA, it’s an ongoing hot potato of who will pay (see Who Pays for Abandoned O&G Wells in PA?). Ohio has it a whole lot easier. There’s only an estimated 600 orphan wells in the Buckeye State. The issue of who will pay in Ohio is moot–the state itself pays for it (meaning Ohio taxpayers 2/4/18 correction: The funds come from the Oil and Gas Well fund which oil and gas producers pay into from the severance tax. Our thanks to OOGA for sending along that correction!). A new bill in Ohio just passed the legislature, House Bill 225, which triples the amount of money set aside to cap orphan wells. The bill also “creates a more streamlined and efficient process for identifying and plugging” orphan wells. The amazing thing about the bill is this: both Big Green groups and the drilling industry support it! When was the last time you heard of that happening?! Here’s more about HB 225, the bill everybody loves in Ohio. Who wouldn’t love a bill to help the orphans?…

From Public Radio:

An environmental group and an oil and gas industry lobbying group are both praising a bill that passed the Ohio House that would streamline the process of capping some 600 old, unused wells that don’t have owners. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports they also want more money put toward that process.

The Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association say the bill will triple the money set aside for capping those so-called “orphan” wells. Tom Stewart with the Oil and Gas Association says that’s needed, noting $62 million in severance tax revenue was transferred out of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in recent years.

“That includes paying for lawsuits unrelated to oil and gas development and budget transfers to other funds. The budget director said that severance tax should be used to pay for issues such as Medicaid.”

Budget Director Tim Keen says that money helped balance the budget and paid settlements in two lawsuits involving the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but insisted there’s plenty of money in the oil and gas fund for orphan wells and other needs.

The Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association say the bill will triple the money set aside for capping those so-called “orphan” wells. Tom Stewart with the Oil and Gas Association says that’s needed, noting $62 million in severance tax revenue was transferred out of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in recent years. (1)

From the Sandusky Register:

A new bill backed by the region’s statehouse representative should fuel a new initiative to plug improperly abandoned oil and natural gas wells.

House Bill 225, in short, creates a more streamlined and efficient process for identifying and plugging orphan, or abandoned, wells across Ohio.

It also aims to reduce steep costs associated with cleaning them up, which, state officials presume, has deterred landowners from reporting discovered wells and addressing this issue.

“The legislation outlines an updated process for helping property owners and the state plug these wells,” according to a statehouse statement. “Under the bill, property owners can now notify the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about an orphan well on their property, prompting an inspection within 30 days.”

Among the legislation’s supporters: state Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton.

“As the representative of a district that is very concerned with the harmful effects of human activity on the environment … I was proud to co-sponsor House Bill 225,” Arndt said. “This legislation will help homeowners that discover abandoned orphan wells on their properties to properly address them.”

A study showed orphan wells in 58 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Many of them were drilled several generations ago. It’s believed more than 600 exist across the state. A state map shows most exist in Ohio’s southeastern border. It doesn’t list any wells located in Erie, Huron or Ottawa counties.

“Orphan wells left unattended can pose a significant threat to Ohio’s beautiful natural environment,” Arndt said. “With a vital resource like Lake Erie potentially affected by these wells, it’s necessary to take any action possible to protect such an important resource.”

The bill awaits Gov. John Kasich’s signature before it becomes a law. (2)

(1) Kent (OH) WKSU Pubic Radio (Jan 24, 2018) – Enviromentalists and Drillers Back a Bill to Triple Money to Cap Orphan Wells

(2) Sandusky (OH) Register (Jan 27, 2018) – State bill aims to plug orphan wells

A copy of Ohio HB 225:

hb225_02_PH