EDF Launches New Map Showing Location of Every Documented Orphan Well in United States

Shows more than 81,000 documented orphan wells in 28 states

October 15, 2021
Ben Schneider, (202) 572-3279, bschneider@edf.org

Environmental Defense Fund unveiled a new map today that shows the location of every documented orphan well in the United States. The first-of-its-kind map shows the location of more than 81,000 orphan wells in 28 states. Orphan wells – which are unsealed wells left behind by oil and gas companies once they stop producing – can leak oil, toxic chemicals and methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

These wells have no responsible party liable for cleanup and are the responsibility of federal, state and Tribal governments to plug and remediate. But their well-plugging programs often lack the funds necessary to tackle this monumental problem. Plugging, or permanently sealing, orphan wells creates important environmental benefits while creating good paying local jobs.

Adam Peltz, Senior Attorney, Energy Transition, issued the following statement:

"Across our country, there are hundreds of thousands of orphan wells polluting our communities. These unplugged wells can leak oil and other toxic chemicals, endanger water sources, lower property values and emit methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. This issue has flown under the radar for decades, in part, because the public could not visualize the extent of the problem. EDF and McGill University, for the first time ever, have mapped the exact location of every documented orphan well in the country.

"This map shows more than 81,000 documented orphan wells littered across 28 states. This new resource demonstrates the critical need to pass the REGROW Act through the House and into law. This bill will ensure every documented orphan well in the U.S. is plugged, help identify and catalog the hundreds of thousands of other improperly abandoned wells across the country and make sure when wells are plugged, they are plugged properly. This legislation is a critical step forward but Congress and states must take additional action – including reforms to bonding and other policies – to prevent wells from becoming orphaned in the future."

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One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund