Press Release

Tagged In:

Lawmakers vote to order ODNR to search and destroy more old, abandoned wells

Ohio Environmental Council, May 15, 2014

Ohio House steps up funding for oil + gas oversight, geological survey, and orphan well plugging

The Ohio Environmental Council is praising the Ohio House of Representatives for its vote today to increase funding for state oversight of oil and gas development and to speed up the plugging of abandoned,  old oil and gas wells.

The House included the funding and reforms in legislation (House Bill 375) to increase the state severance tax collected on the production of oil and gas drilled in Ohio.

“This is a substantial down payment on the responsible oversight of oil and gas drilling in our state,” said Jack Shaner, Deputy Director for the Ohio Environmental Council.

“Additional inspection and enforcement and enhanced geological survey at new and existing wells and stepped up plugging of old, abandoned wells — those are the dividends this investment promises. Best of all, it will be funded by a tax increase, not on the public, but on the oil and gas industry.”

Under the bill, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be allotted:

  • $3 million per year for geological investigations  near new and existing oil and gas production wells and waste injection wells–double the current funding level. Seismic testing and monitoring and other geological surveying is important for protecting underground water sources and identifying geologic faults before drilling.
  • $3 million per year for the plugging of old, abandoned “orphan wells”–double the current funding level. Experts believe thousands of orphan wells with no remaining responsible owner to claim, dot Ohio’s landscape in both rural and urban areas, alike. Orphan wells pose risks for safety, the environment, and responsible land use the possibility of seeping of oil and gas.
  • $15 million per year for regulatory oversight of oil and gas activity, about $3 million more than the current funding level 

The bill also includes several reforms recommended by the OEC Environmental Law Center to increase the productivity, efficiency, and accountability of the ODNR’s orphan well plugging program. The bill would require the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources to:

  • Provide sufficient staff to identify, locate, and plug idle and orphaned wells;
  • Develop and maintain an inventory of all known and suspected idle and orphaned wells;
  • Prioritize the plugging of idle and orphaned wells identified in the inventory based on the relative risk of the wells to public health and safety;
  • Report annually to the General Assembly on actual and projected expenditures and related well plugging activity for the immediate preceding and immediate upcoming fiscal years, respectively.

The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

“The Ohio House made solid progress today to boost funding to muscle up Ohio’s geo survey for ground water resources and to permanently plug the thousands of orphan wells that pockmark Ohio’s landscape. Our thanks for all House members who supported the plan. We especially thank House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina), House Speaker Pro Tem Matt Huffman (R-Lima), and Representative Gary Scherer (R-Circleville), whose personal leadership assured passage of the orphan well programs the OEC recommended,” said Shaner.