State moves to find and cap abandoned wells more quickly

Pennsylvania has capped more abandoned wells in the last ten months than it has over the previous six years.

The effort, which has located and capped 100 wells in under a year, has been made possible through leverage of funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The state is set to receive more than $400 million in coming years to cap and plug wells. There are roughly 1,500 abandoned wells just in Warren County, possibly 5,000 to 7,000 on the Allegheny National Forest alone. and roughly 350,000 uncapped gas wells across the state. The state’s abandoned gas wells account for about 8% of the state’s methane emissions. A federal estimate indicates an average of $33,000 to plug one.

The funding has allowed the state to hire a dozen additional Department of Environmental Protection staff dedicated to working on the issue in Western Pennsylvania.

“Capping and plugging orphaned and abandoned wells improves public health, reduces planet-warming methane emissions and creates good-paying jobs,” according to a release on the event.

According to the release, DEP only had locations for approximately 30,000 abandoned wells because many were drilled before modern mapping and regulations. The increased federal funding has allowed the department to inspect and inventory abandoned wells.

The funding has also allowed more stringent enforcement of regulations.

“DEP is aggressively going after operators who are walking away from wells and stepping in with emergency plugging contracts where needed to protect public health,” according to the release. “DEP is going after the wells that pose the greatest threat to public health and safety, as well as prioritizing wells located in environmental justice areas. DEP is looking at methane emissions and impacts on disadvantaged communities to put those wells at the top of the list.”

A celebratory event was held to commemorate the capping of the 100th well at HIllman State Park. Action was taken when residents expressed concerns over the risks the well posed.


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