Action Alert: WV Needs the Orphaned Well Prevention Act

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Legislators are considering the Orphaned Well Prevention Act (SB 532 and HB 5414) that would require West Virginia oil and gas well operators to set aside money for future well plugging so the cost does not fall on taxpayers or landowners.

Check out the West Virginia Environmental Council’s fact sheet to learn more. We expect this bill to run in the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee this week. Please urge committee members to put it on their agenda.

What you can do:

In the Senate: Please contact your senators on the Energy, Industry, & Mining Committeewe expect the bill to run in this committee on Thursday of this week – and the Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 532 in its current form. 

In the House : Ask your delegates in the Energy & Manufacturing Committee and Finance Committee to support HB 5414.

The bill requires newly drilled wells and transferred wells to either have a single well plugging bond, or for the driller/operator to start putting a small percentage of that well’s financial proceeds into the State Treasurer’s office for future plugging. For wells currently in use, the bill requires operators to pay 15¢/MCF into the State Treasurer’s office for future plugging.

It also requires horizontal well operators to plug “abandoned” conventional wells in the horizontal well’s drainage area and collect the cost of doing so from the conventional well operator.


West Virginia has over 6,500 documented orphaned oil and gas wells. An abandoned well is defined as one that has not been produced in 12 months. An orphaned well is one that no longer produces, and the driller has gone out of business. With no operator, the expense and effort to plug them falls to the landowner or the taxpayers. Plugging these wells is estimated at around $125,000 but can depend on depth, age, condition and location.

Orphaned wells left behind by the oil and gas industry often leak dangerous emissions, like methane, which pollutes groundwater, threatens public health, and contributes to climate change. One study showed that 53% of sampled conventional wells leaked nine cubic feet an hour. Plugging these wells would reduce the amount of methane emitted in West Virginia.

Read more from the West Virginia Environmental Council.

Thank you for your advocacy on this important issue.

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