Wyoming May Act to Plug Abandoned Wells as Natural Gas Boom Ends
Tim Kupsick/Casper Star-Tribune
By DAN FROSCH
Published: December 24, 2013
DENVER — Hundreds of abandoned drilling wells dot eastern Wyoming like sagebrush, vestiges of a natural gas boom that has been drying up in recent years as prices have plummeted.
The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators.
Wyoming officials are now trying to address the problem amid concerns from landowners that the wells could contaminate groundwater and are a blight on the land.
This month, Gov. Matt Mead proposed allocating $3 million to pay for plugging the wells and reclaiming the land around them. And the issue is expected to be debated during next year’s legislative session as lawmakers seek to hold drilling companies more accountable.
“The downturn in natural gas prices has forced small operators out of business, and the problem has really accelerated over the last couple of years,” said the governor’s policy director, Shawn Reese. “Landowners would like their land to be brought back to a productive status and have orphaned wells cleaned up.”Read More...http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/25/us/state-may-act-to-plug-abandoned-wyoming-wells-as-natural-gas-boom-ends.html