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DEP to plug abandoned wells

| Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004

Eight abandoned oil or gas wells on properties in Carroll and Fallowfield townships will be cleaned and plugged during a state Department of Environmental Protection project.

The wells are located on five properties in the two communities. They are being plugged because of the potential threat they could pose to water supplies and the environment if they leaked or emitted other pollutants, DEP spokesman Karl Lasher said.

The $239,170 contract was awarded July 12 to Hydrocarbon Well Services Inc. in Buckhannon, W.Va., the DEP announced Friday.

Since the first commercial oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859 -- appropriately at what is modern-day Oil City -- as many as 350,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the state, the DEP estimates.

Lasher said the DEP does not know where all these wells are because many are located in isolated areas. As the state discovers these wells, it plugs them.

More than 8,000 orphaned and abandoned wells across the state have been reported to the DEP.

Permit and application fees as well as fines collected in the industry are used to fund well plugging, Lasher said. The 1984 Oil and Gas Act and the subsequent 1992 amendment allowed certain gas or oil wells abandoned before April 1985 to be classified as orphan wells.

That amendment gave the DEP the authority to plug orphan wells and relieve landowners, leaseholders and oil and gas operators from the responsibility to plug these wells on their properties if they received no economic benefit from the well after April 1979.

Gov. Ed Rendell has proposed spending $80 million over four years out of his $800 million Growing Greener initiative to fund well plugging throughout the state.

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