Recognizing the potential public and environmental danger of improperly plugged and unplugged oil and gas wells, Pennsylvania established the Orphan Well Plugging Fund in 1992 to support the plugging of wells for which there is no operator that can be held financially responsible. Supported by fees on new oil and gas well permits, the Fund allows the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to plug roughly 25 to 50 orphan wells annually, less than one percent of the nearly 6,400 orphan wells currently in Pennsylvania.
In an effort to assist Pennsylvania and other states with legacies of oil and gas production in allocating scare well plugging resources, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission developed the Plugging Prioritization Schedule for Orphaned and Abandoned Well Sites. The Schedule uses a points system to score wells according to ten factors, divided into 27 sub-factors, including whether the well is leaking oil/gas or brine and whether the well is located within 300 or 1320 feet of an occupied structure or a public water supply. A high score indicates that a well should be a high priority for plugging. Read more.