SACRAMENTO – In a strong move to hold oil companies responsible for the economic and public health dangers of oil wells left idle and unplugged, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB 1167, the “Orphan Well Prevention Act,” into law. This bill, authored by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, will ensure that the state receives a bond covering the full cost of site cleanup when an idle or marginally producing oil well is sold.
An increasing number of wells at the end of their life are being “orphaned, ” meaning they have been left without a responsible owner or available funds to properly plug them. These unplugged wells can leak hazardous air pollutants and methane, sometimes at explosive levels. Dozens of idle wells have recently been found leaking in Bakersfield, Kern County, and Los Angeles neighborhoods, polluting people’s homes, schools, and community centers. While AB 1167 cannot mend the damage done by already-orphaned wells, it will protect communities and California taxpayers by ensuring funds are available to clean up the nearly 70,000 idle and low-producing California wells at risk of being orphaned.
The following is a statement from Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):
“By signing AB 1167, Governor Newsom has catapulted California into a position of leadership on the growing national crisis of orphan wells, and made good on his continuing commitment to hold the oil industry accountable.
“Finally, communities and taxpayers in California have a measure of protection from the efforts of the oil industry to run away from its obligation to clean up after itself. It is a huge and important first step in getting our arms around the enormous orphan well challenge we are facing, as we move forward toward a clean energy future.”
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law, and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health, and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.