BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — According to the State Department of Conservation, orphaned oil and gas wells are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and community spaces across the country. Through President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, California is one of 24 states charged with changing the process of plugging over 10,000 orphaned gas and oil wells nationwide.
State Supervisor of Oil and Gas Uduak-Joe Ntuk says plugging oil and gas wells benefits the environment by reducing methane emissions, as well as reducing groundwater and soil pollution. He adds that as of this month, nearly 1,100 of the wells identified for plugging in California are in Kern County, representing 20 percent of wells in the state.
“Oil and gas operators are responsible for plugging their own wells,” said Ntuk. “Currently, California operators plug and abandon more wells today than they have ever before. We have a 3-year trend in California history, but there are operators that have gone out of business. At that point, it falls to the state. We’re doing the largest state abandonment.”
Ntuk says that cleaning up these hazardous sites also creates union jobs with good pay among rig companies and cement vendors who will be removing the old tanks and pipelines, some of which Ntuk says have been sitting and rotting in the backyards of some communities for decades.
Ntuk says the state is working closely with other state agencies and local governments to make sure any further environmental issues continue to be addressed.
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