12 Unconventional Shale Gas Drillers Issued DEP Notices Of Violation For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them At 35 Well Pads In 17 Counties
The Department of Environmental Protection has issued 12 unconventional shale gas drillers notices of violation for abandoning gas wells without plugging them at 35 wells pads (each with multiple wells) in 17 counties between 2016 and 2022, according to DEP’s Oil and Gas Compliance Reporting system.
The well pads are in Butler, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Fayette, Greene, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Tioga, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.
These NOVs are in addition to 4,270 notices of violation DEP issued for abandoning wells without plugging them to 256 conventional oil and gas well drillers between 2016 and 2022. Read more here.
The unconventional shale gas drillers issued NOVs include these companies. The year the violations were issued are noted as are the well pad names--
Apex Energy (2021)
-- PF Eisaman 3 - Hempfield Twp., Westmoreland County
-- Emma J. Weitz 8 - Hempfield Twp., Westmoreland County
-- David J. Jordan 6 - Hempfield Twp., Westmoreland County
Catalyst Energy (2022)
-- MROC Pad A Wells - Lafayette Twp., McKean - Wells are leaking gas
Chesapeake Appalachia (2019)
-- Heartwood 2 ESG - Keating Twp., McKean County
EQT Prod (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021)
-- ASHBAUGH 1H - Ashland Twp., Clarion County
-- EMRICK 1H - Elk Twp., Clarion County
-- Christoff Project ESX - Washington Twp., Jefferson County
-- Weed Project ESX - Washington Twp., Jefferson County
-- James H. Wingard Jr - Polk Twp., Jefferson County
-- W L Hopkins 590004 - Morris Twp., Greene County
-- Longhorn C1 - Japy Twp., Elk County
Frontier Natural Resources (2021, 2022)
-- Winner 4H Well Pad - West Keating Twp., Clinton County
-- Winner 1 Proj - West Keating Twp., Clinton County
-- Winner 6 Well Pad - East Keating Twp., Clinton County
-- Halterlein 2064 ESX - Mercer Twp., Butler County
-- Williams Unit 2062 ESX - Slippery Rock Twp., Butler County
Pin Oak Energy Partners (2020, 2021)
-- Shannon ESX - Lake Twp., Mercer County
-- Pilgrim 2 Well Site - Otter Creek Twp., Mercer County
-- STAAB 1H Pad ESX - North Shenango Twp., Crawford County
Range Resources Appalachia (2016, 2018, 2020, 2021)
-- Hess Unit 1 H - Morris Twp., Clearfield County
-- Gulf USA 63H Well Pad - Snow Shoe Twp., Centre County
-- Mohawk OG - Gallagher Twp., Clinton County
-- Harman Well Pad - Moreland Twp., Lycoming County
Rice Drilling (2017, 2020)
-- Lohr Well Pad - Somerset Twp., Washington County
-- Glass Joe Well Pad - Aleppo Twp., Greene County
-- Alpha Unit 2 - Jackson Twp., Greene County
Seneca Resources (2017)
-- CRB Pad C09-G - Shippen Twp., Cameron County
-- COP 11 H 4093 - Fox Twp., Elk County
-- F14 - COP-1 - Fox Twp., Elk County
-- DCNR 007 5H Pad G - Shippen Twp., Tioga County
Triana Energy LLC (2020, 2021)
-- MAWC 7020 3H - Springfield Twp., Fayette County
-- MAWC 7020 1H - Springfield Twp., Fayette County
-- Sproul 7005 OG Well - Stewart Twp., Fayette County
XTO Energy (2020)
-- Vic Nor Farms - Forward Twp., Butler County
Like with conventional well drillers, other violations like failure to manage drilling wastewater safely, improper well casing, failure to submit well integrity reports, failure to operate the wells to meet environmental protection standards and many more go along with NOVs for failure to plug wells.
DEP has taken enforcement actions against both conventional and unconventional oil and gas drillers who abandoned wells without plugging them, but it isn’t clear from DEP’s records how all these cases were resolved. Read more here.
For example, DEP signed a consent order with CNX Gas Company, LLC in 2019 to plug 131 conventional wells and 5 unconventional gas wells. Read more here.
Visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Compliance Reporting System for the latest compliance information. [Note: The system has been available intermittently this week.]
If you believe your company is listed incorrectly, contact DEP’s Oil and Gas Management Program.
New Abandoned Wells
The issue of new abandoned wells versus the legacy of over 200,000 abandoned conventional oil and gas wells was raised by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Committee, at the February 28 House Appropriations Committee hearing on DEP’s budget.
“DEP has estimated in the past that there are up to about 200,000 orphaned and abandoned wells out there. And there are problems associated with this, methane leakage, risks of explosion, water pollution, et cetera,” said Rep. Vitali. “I've always assumed this was a legacy issue. This is something that happened in the past, and we just have to deal with that past”
He noted recent information was published documenting the fact this is not just a legacy issue, but oil and gas drillers are abandoning hundreds of conventional wells a year now. Read more here.
He pointed to an example where DEP said in 2018 alone, two conventional oil and gas operators abandoned approximately 2,750 wells to taxpayers to pay for plugging.
“So, you know, we're going to be getting about $25 million to plug wells this year [from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law], and up to $400 million to plug wells from federal sources in the next 15 years,” said Rep. Vitali. “My concern is, this could just be a game of whack-a-mole, where we're plugging some, and the industry continues to abandon them.”
Directing his inquiry to DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Rep. Vitali said-- “My question to you is do you concede that this is an ongoing problem? What is the problem? Why aren't conventional wells being plugged? Is it a staffing issue? Is it inadequate bonding required, not requiring operators to bond adequately [as in pre-1985 conventional wells]? I mean, what is the problem here?”
Secretary McDonnell said, “I think it's probably more the latter [adequate bonding], where we have a responsible party. But by the time you get to the abandonment, they're not necessarily a financially viable responsible party to do that work.”
“But we do use other tools. So, for example, when there's a transfer of [well] permits we've gotten some additional bonding-- not necessarily full-cost, but much more bonding on certain transactions,” said Secretary McDonnell.
“We have pursued compliance and enforcement in some of these cases. But it really is a case-by-case kind of determination as to how that goes,” said McDonnell.
Scope Of The Problem
The thousands of newly abandoned wells become the responsibility of taxpayers to plug in the absence of any follow-up enforcement actions or agreements.
The thousands of new abandoned conventional oil and gas wells represent a potential taxpayer liability of over $100 million, even if just half of them remain unplugged-- given the average cost to safely plug a well is about $33,000.
Taxpayers are also liable to pay the cost of the 200,000+ older oil and gas wells conventional operators have abandoned in the past in Pennsylvania.
The taxpayer cost to cleanup these wells is estimated by DEP to be about $1.8 billion. Read more here.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported DEP only has $15 per well onhand through bonding and finance assurances to plug the 100,500 active conventional wells, if the operators walk away-- which is exactly what many are doing, according to DEP’s records. Read more here.
State law also now exempts all oil and gas wells drilled before April 1985-- which is a majority of the 100,500 active conventional wells-- from any bonding requirement so they are at risk of abandonment and another financial liability on taxpayers.
In November the Environmental Quality Board accepted a rulemaking petition to increase the bonding amounts for both conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells to the cost taxpayers would have to pay to plug them if abandoned by drilling companies. Read more here.
DEP may report back to the EQB on the general status of its evaluation of the petition at the March 15 meeting.
Increasing bond amounts to the real taxpayer cost of plugging and closing the loophole in state law that exempts wells drilled before April 1985 from any bonding requirement will go a long way to protecting taxpayers from billions of dollars in liability for plugging these wells if drilling companies walk-- and they are walking, particularly the conventional drillers. Read more here.
The other issue is staffing for DEP’s Oil and Gas Program.
The Oil and Gas Program faces a $10.5 million annual funding deficit, nearly half of the approximately $25 million it costs to regulate conventional and unconventional drilling. This deficit has also cut staff from a full complement of 226 positions to 190. Read more here.
(Photo: Top Left - Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance.)
-- 2016 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- 2017 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- 2018 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- 2019 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- 2020 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- 2021 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- 2022 DEP Oil & Gas Compliance Report*
-- DEP’s Oil and Gas Compliance Reporting System (Check compliance records yourself.)*
[*Note: Watch for double entries in DEP’s database. Earlier years are worse than more current ones. Always look for the unique violation number.]
-- The Epoch Times: Republicans Urge Gov. Wolf To Unleash PA’s Immense Natural Gas Reserves
-- Gov. Wolf Blasts Republicans For Exploiting Crisis In Ukraine To Line Pockets Of The Natural Gas Industry
-- FracTracker Alliance Holding 3 Webinars On Using Maps & Data To Empower Action Starting March 8
-- Register Now For 2022 Shale Network Workshop In State College May 12-13
Related Articles - Abandoned Wells:
-- New Abandoned Wells: DEP Records Show Abandoning Oil & Gas Wells Without Plugging Them Is Pervasive In Conventional Drilling Industry; Who Is Protecting Taxpayers?
-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Pay Only $46,100 Of The $10,600,000 It Costs DEP To Regulate That Industry; Taxpayers May Be Asked To Pay The Difference
-- Conventional Oil & Gas Well Drillers Press DEP To Reduce Environmental Safeguards For Drilling And Treat Them The Same As Wind, Solar Energy Facilities
Resource Links - DEP
-- DEP Budget Testimony: Significant Investments In Environmental Cleanup, Improving Permit Review Times, Holding Polluters Responsible, Relief To Those Harmed By Pollution
-- DEP Budget Hearing: Unconventional Natural Gas Industry Didn’t Drill 40% Of The Wells It Had DEP Permits For
-- Senate Budget Hearings: PA’s Experience With New Pipeline Construction Shows State Laws Not Strong Enough To Prevent Environmental Damage, Protect Public Safety
-- 12 Unconventional Shale Gas Drillers Issued DEP Notices Of Violation For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them At 35 Well Pads In 17 Counties
-- DEP Posts Budget Hearing Materials
Resource Links - DCNR:
-- DCNR Budget Hearing: We Have A Unique Opportunity To Invest In Our Recreation, Clean Water & Land Conservation Infrastructure With Growing Greener III
-- Republican Senators Propose Gas Drilling On At Least 22,000 More Acres Of State Forest, Mining 920 Acres Of Coal Under A State Park To Pay For DCNR Infrastructure Backlog
-- DCNR Budget Testimony: Critical Investments Needed To Reduce $1.4 Billion Backlog Of Infrastructure Repairs, To Expand Local Economies, Provide Recreation For All
-- DCNR Secretary Outlines 2022 Priorities To Conservation & Natural Resources Advisory Council, Including Need For $1.4 Billion In Infrastructure Improvements
-- DCNR Blog: Gov. Wolf’s Proposed Budget Supports Conservation And Recreation
-- DCNR Blog: Conservation Funds Help Communities Provide Outdoor Places, Opportunities; Apply Now
-- DCNR Blog: 2021 Year In Review From DCNR
-- DCNR Posts Budget Hearing Materials
Related Articles - Budget Briefing:
-- Budget Briefing: Senate, House Budget Hearings Should Talk About Once-In-A-Generation Investments In Cleaning Up The Environment; Oil & Gas Program At A Crossroads
-- Two Bipartisan Bills Just Sitting In Senate Waiting To Address Record Number Of Water Quality Impaired Streams Reported In 2022
-- Gov. Wolf Proposes $450 Million Growing Greener III Initiative Funded By Federal American Rescue Plan; Bipartisan Support Building For Conservation Allocation
-- General Assembly Diverted $3.602 Billion From Environmental Infrastructure Projects And Programs Into State Budget Black Hole
[Posted: March 2, 2022]
|Go To Preceding Article Go To Next Article|