For more than 100 years, companies and private landowners in the United States have drilled tens of millions of wells to extract oil and gas. When oil and gas wells reach the end of their productive lifespans, the owners and operators of the wells must: (i) plug each one by removing any remaining piping and sealing the well with a mechanical or cement plug; and (ii) reclaim the surrounding land by removing structures and equipment on the surface and restoring vegetation around the well site to its original condition to prevent impacts to air and water quality. However, for a variety of reasons, this often does not happen, leading to an inordinate number of abandoned and orphaned wells across the United States. These wells pose a potentially significant risk to the environment and the health of neighboring communities and contribute uncontrolled green- house gas emissions to the atmosphere.
Republished with permission. The article "Abandoned and Orphaned Wells: How to Reduce Risks and Minimize Environmental Impacts" was published in ALI CLE's The Practical Real Estate Lawyer on February 5, 2024.