Energy & Environment

Will Texas Tackle Backlog Of Thousands Of Abandoned Oil Wells?

There’s growing concern over thousands of “abandoned” oil & gas wells. Some are near Houston and worry homeowners who use well-water.

Texas requires oil & gas drillers to pay or  a bond to cover plugging costs
Texas requires oil & gas drillers to pay a bond to cover plugging costs

In March we reported how Texas lawmakers were concerned that with the downturn in the oil economy, operators were “walking away” from wells and not plugging them. That could lead to leaks and environmental damage.

The next month, a legislative commission found that one problem was that the state wasn’t requiring drillers to put up enough money to cover proper plugging in case they went bankrupt.

Then, last month homeowners from the Chasewood subdivision in Fort Bend County told lawmakers they feared inaction by the state was putting their health at risk from abandoned oil & gas wells near a well they use for drinking water.

“The Railroad Commission dropped the ball in its failure to closely monitor these abandoned wells and it has placed us all in jeopardy,” said Phyllis Bailey, one Chasewood resident who testified.

The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the drilling industry. A commission spokesperson said in an email to us that it would be up to the legislature next year to decide if more money is needed to tackle a backlog of 9,715 abandoned wells statewide.

“The OGRC (Oil and Gas Regulation and Cleanup fund) is funded by the oil and gas industry, not taxpayers, through fees for permits, oil and gas production regulatory fees, sales of salvageable equipment, reimbursement for plugging and remediation costs and surcharges,” wrote Gaye Greever McElwain, Railroad Commission communications.

 

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Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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