Senate Committee Approves Idle Oil Wells Legislation
Williams’ AB 2729 Passes Natural Resources Committee
SACRAMENTO — A bill designed to incentivize operators to cap idle oil and gas wells was approved by the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee.
California has over 21,000 idle oil and gas wells. More than half have been idle for at least 10 years and 4,700 have been idle for more than 25 years.
Existing legal mechanisms are insufficient to incentivize owners to properly cap. Low fees and the option to avoid fees altogether by using blanket bonds make it economically rational to not plug inoperable wells and simply leave them idle.
Assemblymember Das Williams’ bill would increase idle well fees to create a stronger incentive to plug and abandon long-term idle wells. The bill also proposes an alternative to paying idle well fees if the owner commits to an aggressive plan to reduce their inventory of long term idle wells.
“These idle oil and gas wells can break at any time and threaten the public’s health and safety,” said Williams, D-Carpinteria.”We cannot risk polluting our drinking water or threatening our agriculture.”
Idle wells pose significant public health concerns and a threat to groundwater. Many idle wells are near homes, agriculture, and sources of drinking water. Without proper usage or maintenance, wells can crack or disintegrate allowing contaminants such as uranium, lead, iron, selenium, sulfates and radon to leak into groundwater sources. Idle wells can also leak methane, a greenhouse gas, if improperly maintained.
The bill was approved Tuesday and now moves to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.