Skip to content

Take action: urge COGCC to require oil & gas companies clean up their mess

Oil and gas operators are legally required to plug and reclaim every well at the end of the well’s productive life. Plugging and reclaiming a well site is expensive. Unfortunately, operators can avoid those costs by simply not shutting it down, even if that well produces very little, or nothing at all. These low producing wells are known to leak methane disproportionately to the level of production, and they pose a serious environmental risk.  

In addition to the environmental risk, these wells also pose a serious financial risk to Colorado’s taxpayers. The oil and gas industry has actively shirked its responsibility to cover the cost of plugging and reclaiming its wells post production. The State has also failed to hold the industry accountable.

Every oil and gas operator is required post a “bond” with the state intended to cover costs for cleaning up the production site but the State’s bonding requirements are grossly inadequate – they allow operators to post a single $100,000 blanket bond for all their operations in the entire state! Many operators choose just to walk away, rather than spend the money to properly clean up a production site. These wells that have been left behind by their operators are called orphaned wells, and are left to the state to clean up.

Take Action

There are two ways to take action:

  1. Take action with Safe and Healthy Communities and urge the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioners (COGCC) to require oil & gas operators to pay their full cleanup costs.

2. The COGCC is adopting new rules to address these issues, and there is a hearing coming up on November 9 with an opportunity to provide public comment. Public comments should address:

  • The need for bonds that actually cover all the costs of plugging and cleaning up every well in the state.
  • Stop the practice of “blanket bonds.” Blanket bonds are a public subsidy for clean-up costs and perpetuate the future orphaned well problem
  • The current financial assurances rules perpetuate the scam the industry has been running, artificially keeping wells “economical” by letting operators discount the true cleanup costs, letting public pick up the bill instead.
  • The COGCC needs to add a per-well fee on operations in the state to generate revenue to clean up orphaned wells.

Below are some resources to help you with your comments:

The $8 Billion Mess Oil and Gas Made in Colorado

A Fact Sheet

(Download a PDF of the Fact Sheet here.)

By the Numbers

Inadequate bonding regulations mean that it is cheaper for operators to walk away without cleaning up their wells.  They can either spend millions on clean up, or let the state keep the $100,000 bond and call it quits. It’s an easy choice for some operators. It is time for Colorado to update its bonding requirements so Coloradans are no longer on the hook for the tens of thousands of wells producing little if any oil or gas, yet are pumping hazardous chemicals and pollution into our air, land and water.

Colorado Well Statistics

Public Comment Guide

Financial Assurances for Oil and Gas Operations in Colorado

(Download a PDF of the Public Comment Guide here)

When an oil and gas operator wants to drill a new well, they are required to post a bond with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). This money is set aside in case the operator is unable to fulfill their legal obligation to plug the well and pay for the reclamation of the land on which it was drilled. Unfortunately, the amounts currently required to be posted in a bond are too low, which has resulted in many wells going unplugged because their operator is no longer in business and the COGCC does not have enough money to plug and reclaim them. 

The financial assurance rulemaking before the COGCC is designed to fix this problem. With strong new bonding rules, we can ensure that both new wells and wells transferred from one operator to another will be plugged and reclaimed after it no longer produces enough minerals to be profitable. But in order to do that, the COGCC needs to hear from concerned Colorado residents like you. This comment guide will give you the tools you need to make impactful comments that will help the commissioners create rules that protect our health and environment.

Tips for crafting strong public comments:

Talking points that you can include in your comment:

Dirt road leading to petroleum battery with "Out of Service" spray painted on one tank. Mountain range can be seen behind the tanks.
Dirt road leading to petroleum battery with “Out of Service” spray-painted on one tank. Mountain range can be seen behind the tanks, courtesy of Earthworks