Send a message in support of AB 1167, which would help ensure oil well owners can’t walk away from their drilling operations without cleaning them up.
Phot: Jim West/Alamy
Oil companies are drilling in California communities, exposing residents to a long list of health hazards and lining their pockets - and then forcing the rest of us to pay to clean up their mess when the wells are no longer profitable. It’s time to take action against this reckless and unfair practice.
The California legislature is considering AB 1167, which would block the practice of big oil companies selling off their wells to smaller and often less solvent operators, who then walk away from their obligation to clean them up the wells when they’re no longer producing. Although operators are supposed to post bonds when they drill to make sure there is money available for cleanup, the required bond amounts are way too low. The average cost of plugging and cleaning up wells no longer in use is estimated at $68,000 per well, but operators are only required to post much smaller amounts, sometimes as little as a few hundred dollars per well - leaving taxpayers to foot the rest of the bill if an operator down the line becomes insolvent. AB 1167, the Orphan Well Prevention Act, would require that any time a well is sold, a bond be posted that will actually cover the whole cost of cleanup.
The wells left to taxpayers to clean up are a risk not just to our pocketbooks, but to the communities that have to live with them. Oil drilling often takes place right next to schools, hospitals, and homes, and even after production stops, the idle wells continue to threaten neighborhoods, often leaking toxic air pollutants. Last year, dozens of idle wells were found to be leaking air pollution within a few hundred feet of people’s homes and a day care center. It is essential that resources be consistently and immediately available to clean up these wells, rather than waiting for public money to become available.
It’s time for a change. Tell your legislators to take action by supporting AB 1167 today.