Feds, State to Spend Hundreds of Millions to Plug 'Orphan' Oil Wells
Thursday, April 28, 2022
Big money is on the way to supercharge California's efforts to plug so-called orphan oil wells, which pollute the environment but have no legal owner.
In recent years, California has spent $9 million to plug 70 of the more than 5,300 aging, abandoned wells littering the state.
Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, said the bipartisan infrastructure law is expected to add another $165 million to the cleanup.
"Our folks are identifying where orphan wells present the biggest health and safety risk and will prioritize communities that face the largest environmental burden," Crowfoot explained.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed adding another $200 million as part of the state budget currently being negotiated in Sacramento.
The state estimates there are another 18,000 undocumented orphan wells still needing to be investigated, mapped and plugged.
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., said the defunct wells pose significant hazards.
"Abandoned wells pollute our air and drinking wells," Padilla outlined. "Abandoned wells leak gases that cause sickness and a lot of illnesses including cancer. Orphan wells also emit methane, which is a powerful greenhouse-gas that is serving to accelerate the climate crisis that we're working so hard to try to reverse."
Without the extra funding, the state estimates it would take decades to remediate all the leaking wells.
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