Statement: Assembly natural resources committee passes legislation to prevent orphan oil wells in California

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Assembly Natural Resources Committee passed AB 1167, the Orphan Well Prevention Act, on Monday in an 8:3 vote to protect Californians from the health risks and large financial liability associated with orphan oil wells in the state.

California is seeing a growing number of oil and gas wells at risk of becoming orphaned due to an extreme shortfall in available bond funds to clean up these wells when they’re done producing. Orphan wells can contaminate land, surface water, and groundwater, sickening communities and representing a huge liability to the state. While the average cost to plug and abandon a well is around $68,000, the average bond available per well is around $1,000.

AB 1167 would address this risk head on by requiring bonding for the full cost of plugging and abandonment upon transfer, to ensure that the public is not stuck footing the bill or suffering the health consequences of living near orphan oil wells.

In response, Steven King, Environment California’s clean energy advocate, released the following statement:

“Californians shouldn’t suffer the environmental and health consequences of orphan oil wells, and the state shouldn’t be on the hook for the huge financial liability. It’s only fair that polluters pay to clean up the mess they leave once wells stop producing.

By moving this legislation forward, we are taking the necessary steps to prevent more oil wells from becoming orphaned and endangering communities throughout California. We thank Chair Luz Rivas, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, and Asm. Wendy Carrillo for passing this bill out of committee.”