PHOENIX (April 25, 2023) - The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) today announced the newly launched Orphaned Well Program. ADEQ is working in partnership with the Arizona Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (AZOGCC), landowners and community members to properly plug orphaned oil and gas wells on State and private land in Arizona and mitigate potential safety, public health and environmental risks.
Conducted on behalf of AZOGCC in 2022, ADEQ’s initial records research for potential orphaned wells in Arizona shows an estimate of 246 possible wells. Many of the wells identified were drilled in the early 1900s, before Arizona established oil and gas regulations. Therefore, there could be additional potential orphaned wells and we are encouraging community members to be on the lookout and report them to us to investigate.
“We appreciate the opportunity to lend our expertise to support this important Orphaned Well Program that serves Arizonans and our environment," said ADEQ Air Quality Director, Daniel Czecholinski.“ We are eager to work with community members to locate, verify and address any potential orphaned wells. Working together on this initiative, we will create a safer and healthier Arizona for everyone.”
ADEQ has created an interactive reporting tool that makes it easy for people to report a potential orphaned well. Community members can use the tool to report potential orphaned wells from their smartphone or computer using this link: bit.ly/ReportOrphanWells, or simply call 602-771-4501 or email [email protected] to help this critical effort.
The Orphaned Well Program covers confirmed orphaned wells that are located on State or private lands. Orphaned wells located on federal or Tribal lands are not included in the program. In addition to ADEQ’s initial list of 246 orphan wells, ADEQ will conduct file reviews for wells reported by community members to gather well ownership, location, geology and other information to help locate wells and determine if they are eligible for the program.
With cooperation from private landowners, ADEQ will work closely with property owners and any nearby community members to coordinate field activities. This cooperation is critical to the success of the program. Field activities can include verifying well location and status, and then, if needed, environmental sampling, well plugging, and cleanup or restoration of the landscape surrounding the plugged well to return the area to its original state. As part of the well plugging work, ADEQ will conduct methane monitoring before and after plugging to confirm its effectiveness.
“Properly addressing orphaned wells in our State is part of our continuing commitment to protecting Arizona’s natural resources,” said Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Chairman Frank Thorwald. "Thanks to our partnership with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, we are now able to take these crucial steps and implement this program for Arizonans.”
Orphaned wells are oil and gas wells that are not plugged, not producing, and have no owner or responsible party. In Arizona, the majority of these wells were drilled for oil, natural gas, potash (a mineral used in fertilizer) and helium. When not properly plugged, the wells can pose a risk to public health and the environment, including air and water pollution.
Arizona’s Orphaned Well Program is funded by a $25 million competitive grant awarded to ADEQ by the U.S. Department of Interior as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
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