Public meeting will focus on state’s orphan well cleanup plan

 — March 24, 2014

Representatives of Gov. Matt Mead’s office and several other state agencies will meet with interested members of the public about the state’s plan for reclaiming and capping orphaned coal-bed methane wells. The meeting will take place on April 2, 2014, at Gillette College’s Presentation Hall, Room 120 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In this file photo from 2006, landowners observed a low-lying grazing area that was flooded and frozen with water discharged from coal-bed methane gas wells in the Powder River Basin. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

Wyoming lawmakers recently approved of using $3 million from an existing industry-funded orphan well account to go toward the cleanup effort. It’s likely that the number of abandoned coal-bed methane gas wells in Wyoming will grow far beyond the 1,220 wells targeted in the governor’s plan. Luca Technologies, Inc., and it’s subsidiary, Patriot Energy, have at least 912 idle wells, and they’ve struggled for years to secure the financing needed to maintain the facilities. The state estimates the total cost to plug and reclaim those wells is another $5.9 million. There are another 2,300 idle coal-bed methane gas wells “at risk” of being abandoned, according to the state, adding another $18 million to the total liability.

“State agencies are working diligently to coordinate plugging of abandoned wells and reclamation efforts to minimize disturbance to landowners,” Gov. Mead said in a prepared statement. “Plugging abandoned wells and reclaiming the sites are necessary to safeguard our land, water and wildlife. I thank the Legislature for authorizing the use of an additional $3 million from conservation tax revenue for these purposes.”

The governor’s draft plan for the abandoned wells is available here.

For more on this topic read these WyoFile stories and reports:

— Wyoming’s multi-million dollar effort to clean up abandoned wells fails to launch — September, 2013

— Aftermath of a Drilling Boom: Wyoming stuck with abandoned gas wells — May, 2013

— Orphaned oil and gas wells on the rise in Wyoming — May, 2013

— Wyoming betting on coal-bed methane comeback despite industry bankruptcies — May, 2012

— CBM: Bugs vs Bankruptcy — December, 2011

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