The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund (OEC Action Fund) are both praising a bill that passed the Ohio House that would streamline the state’s idle and orphan oil and gas well program, it passed the Ohio House with unanimous support on Jan. 17.
Introduced by State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), House Bill 225 will establish a more robust and streamlined program for plugging the state’s idle and orphan wells, which do not have identifiable owners and may date back as far as 1885.
The number of idle and orphan oil and gas wells in the state is estimated to be in the thousands and there are currently 700 wells on a waiting list to be plugged through the state’s Orphan Well Plugging Program, which is administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and funded by severance taxes paid by Ohio’s oil and gas industry.
“We commend Rep. Andy Thompson and the co-sponsors of this bill for legislation that is in the interest of the public and Ohio’s natural environment,” said Melanie Houston, OEC’s director of climate programs. “House Bill 225 will make considerable progress in expediting ODNR’s process for plugging these abandoned wells across Ohio.”
OOGA and the OEC Action Fund mentioned several provisions of House Bill 225 that would increase the efficiency of the Orphan Well Plugging Program and provide ODNR the resources needed to address this longstanding issue to protect public health, safety and the environment. Key provisions include:
·Streamlined historical title and landowner research requirements.
·Process to allow ODNR to pay well service contractors directly, eliminating upfront, out-of-pocket costs and potential tax liabilities for landowners.
·Increased accountability by requiring ODNR to report well-plugging progress annually to the Ohio General Assembly.
·Increased program funding from 14 to 45 percent.
“This legislation establishes the framework necessary to report the wells, rank them, get them plugged, and to spend the allocated funds to prevent the problem,” said Mike Chadsey, OOGA’s director of public relations. “This is a historic opportunity for Ohio to finally eradicate the issue of idle and orphan wells.”
Following passage by the Ohio House, House Bill 225 was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Jan. 22. OOGA and the OEC Action Fund look forward to working with the Senate and the swift approval of this essential legislation.