DEP Well Plugging Program
The Oil and Gas Act authorizes DEP to plug orphan and abandoned wells to address environmental, health and safety concerns. A surcharge paid by the oil and gas industry for each drilling permit issued in the commonwealth is deposited into an account available for plugging orphan or abandoned wells. Other funding is utilized for plugging projects, when it is available. For example, Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener Fund subsidized many plugging projects during the early to mid-2000s. Some recent outside funding sources have included the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) and contributions from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). These partnerships and alternate funding sources are an important component for addressing DEP’s ever-growing legacy well liability and allowing the agency to mitigate emergencies.
Besides developing and executing contracts for plugging projects, the Well Plugging Program continuously works to develop better tools to manage legacy wells in Pennsylvania. Program staff have undertaken research to determine the status of legacy oil and gas wells, estimated the financial liability the commonwealth has in association with legacy wells, and is developing approaches for estimating greenhouse gas emissions associated with the historical well population. A poster entitled “Pennsylvania Legacy Well Integrity and Emissions Study” was presented during the 2017 Geological Society of America’s North-Central Section Meeting. The poster can be viewed here.
You can learn more about legacy wells and the Plugging Program through the following resources: