Kanawha State Forest Gas Well Tour

UPDATE: A youtube video of the well tour is now available.

WV Legislators and staff learn firsthand about dangers of leaky, orphaned gas wells

Dave McMahon (second from right) explains the process used to plug gas wells as the group views an old plugged well (to the left of Dave).

Monday afternoon during October Legislative interims, the WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization (WVSORO), the WV Rivers Coalition and the WV Environmental Council hosted an informational hike in Kanawha State Forest just outside of the capital city. Dave McMahon, counsel for WVSORO, led the excursion to three different well sites: one “orphaned” well too old to even know who drilled it or when, one that is still in production and owned by a local operator, and finally a plugged well which had supposedly been properly decommissioned. When tested, all three had detectable gas leaks using the handheld monitors, and at least one had a leak that everyone’s nose could detect. Phew!

The purpose of this excursion was to highlight the need for more DEP well inspectors, funding for plugging leaky orphaned wells because of the danger they pose to groundwater, climate, and the health of local residents. We’ll also be asking lawmakers to pass the “Orphaned Gas Well Prevention Act” for new and transferred wells, to require drillers to set aside money in the Treasurer’s office as the well produces income to cover the eventual plugging costs when the wells stop producing (become “abandoned”). Most of these wells are located in rural areas but many are close to homes as the ones recently brought to our attention in a neighborhood within the Charleston city limits. 

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