Our opinion: Have plan for cash with wells

We agree wholeheartedly with Gov. Josh Shapiro — Pennsylvania can do a lot to protect clean air and water in Pennsylvania by capping orphaned gas wells.

There are roughly 1,500 abandoned wells just in Warren County and some 350,000 across the state. The state’s abandoned gas wells account for about 8% of the state’s methane emissions.

But so far the federal government is the only one coming up with a plan to cap those wells by setting aside more than $400 million in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2022. Pennsylvania has received $104 million of that money and is expected to receive more of the orphaned well money than any state but Texas.

The only way anyone knows how Shapiro feels is a Facebook post over the weekend. It’s absolutely governing by platitude. We can all agree the state needs to do more about orphaned wells. But what is the state’s plan? According to a news release on Shapiro’s website, the plan is to draw down the $104 million from the federal government as quickly as possible.

That’s it? There’s nothing more?

Surely Shapiro and his leadership team can come up with a better plan than spend the federal money we’ve been handed as quickly as possible. How about setting a concrete goal of the number of wells to be capped each year? If methane emissions from orphaned gas wells are statistically significant, it would seem a coordinated state program of how to spend that federal money quickly is needed.

We would hope Shapiro read a recent report by the Centre Square in which Curtis Shuck of the Well Done Foundation talked about how federal well capping money has been used poorly in an effort to spend the money quickly.

“It was such an aggressive timeline on (spending) that it didn’t allow states to really do a good job of doing their quantification or doing their prioritization of the (abandoned wells) list,” Shuck said. “They literally had not a long period of time to get those funds obligated, to get contractors under contract, so that they can raise their hand and tap the button to say that ‘we’ve done it.” As a result, getting wells plugged, and showing action has been taken, meant some of the wells getting plugged first with federal funding “probably aren’t some of the highest-priority wells. Everybody wanted a base hit.”

In our view, Shapiro’s plan has to focus on creating a real priority list of wells that should be capped first, making that list public and updating the public on the state’s progress. It’s a better starting point than simply saying our plan is to spend money quickly.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today