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Colorado Orders Safety Fixes at Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

On Wednesday, July 18, 2018, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado issued an Executive Order directing the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) to act to “plug, remediate, and reclaim” orphaned oil and gas wells and sites.  Of the over 50,000 oil and gas wells in the state, the COGCC is currently tracking 262 orphaned wells and 373 associated well sites that require remediation and reclamation. 

The Executive Order directs the COGCC to:

  • Ensure a reduction in the backlog of high and medium priority orphaned wells and sites to zero;
  • Engage with the oil and gas industry to ensure the plugging, remediation, and reclamation of the wells and sites; and
  • Issue rules by September 1, 2019, to bolster the system of financial assurance that will prevent future orphaned wells and sites by providing sufficient funding for plugging, remediation, and reclamation activities.

The Order (1) gives the COGCC until August 1, 2018, to update its list of orphaned wells and sites; (2) requires annual updates to the list; and (3) gives the agency five years (to July 1, 2023) to work with the industry to eliminate safety issues with all the orphaned wells and sites currently on the list or which will be added over time.

Link to executive order: https://www.colorado.gov/governor/sites/default/files/executive_orders/d_2018-012_directing_the_colorado_oil_and_gas_conservatism_commission_to_act_to_plug_remediate_and_

This post was drafted by John Watson, an attorney in the Denver, CO office of Spencer Fane LLP. For more information, visit spencerfane.com.