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Rewriting Pennsylvania’s Legacy

Orphan Well Plugging Grant Program

In response to the passage of Act 96 and Act 136, DEP is creating an Orphan Well Plugging Grant Program that provides funding to a qualified well plugger to plug an eligible orphan well.

This grant program provides up to:

  • $40,000 to a Qualified Well Plugger for every eligible well plugged that is an orphan well of a depth of 3,000 feet or less or the actual cost to plug the well, whichever is less.
  • $70,000 to a Qualified Well Plugger for every eligible well plugged that is an orphan well of a depth greater than 3,000 feet or the actual cost to plug the well, whichever is less.

A “Qualified Well Plugger” is a “person who demonstrates access to equipment, materials, resources and services to plug wells in accordance with statutory and regulatory requirements.”

An “Orphan Well” as defined in Section 3203 of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act is “a well abandoned prior to April 18, 1985 that has not been affected or operated by the present owner or operator and from which the present owner, operator or lessee has received no economic benefit other than as a landowner or recipient of a royalty interest from the well.”


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Orphan Well Plugging Grant Program Flyer

More information coming soon…

Abandoned and Orphan Well Program

Abandoned Gas WellIt is estimated that hundreds of thousands of oil and gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since 1859. Although owners and operators are legally responsible for plugging wells when oil and gas production is no longer economically viable, this does not always happen.  In addition to the wells that were drilled historically – prior to regulations pertaining to well decommissioning – there are instances in which an oil and gas company files for bankruptcy protection or moves out of the commonwealth, leaving its wells improperly abandoned.  There are also circumstances when DEP must address wells purchased by or transferred to landowners who are not familiar with the financial and regulatory responsibilities associated with becoming a well owner/operator in the commonwealth (reporting, well integrity assessments, possible environmental investigative work, and ultimately providing well decommissioning costs that range from tens of thousands of dollars to over $100,000.)  Whatever the mechanism, there remain many thousands of abandoned wells in the commonwealth that have no identifiable responsible party to complete plugging.

Leaking wellDEP's Well Plugging Program was established under the authority of the Oil and Gas Act to plug oil and gas wells where there is no identifiable responsible party. If not addressed properly, wells have the potential to cause health, safety, environmental and economic concerns.  The Act also established permit surcharges that range from $150 to $250 per new oil and gas well permit.  These surcharges are paid by well operators and deposited in accounts established for well decommissioning activities conducted by DEP.  Although well intentioned, the surcharges are not sufficient to allow the commonwealth to address the liability associated with legacy oil and gas wells.

Reporting an Abandoned Well

Individuals that become aware of abandoned wells – especially those wells causing environmental or public safety issues – are encouraged to contact the appropriate DEP Oil and Gas District Office or fill out the Abandoned Well Reporting Form. Upon notification, DEP will investigate the well to determine if it qualifies as an abandoned or orphan well and that any potential environmental, health and safety issues are addressed, as resources allow.

Contacts and Directions Oil and Gas Office Locations

A well classified as abandoned may be an orphan well if it meets certain criteria. For more information, please go to the orphan well classification request and instruction forms.

Ritchey Well

View our interactive map showing abandoned, orphan, and DEP plugged wells