Colorado to accelerate cleanup of ‘orphaned’ oil, gas wells

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DENVER | Colorado’s governor has ordered state regulators to accelerate the cleanup of inactive oil and gas wells whose owners have walked away.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday Colorado has about 260 such wells. They’re called “orphaned wells” because no owner can be found, or the owner is unwilling or unable to deal with them.

Hickenlooper says the number is expected to increase.

He says it will cost more than $25 million to plug and clean up the wells and scores of related sites.

Hickenlooper ordered the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry, to categorize orphaned wells into high, medium and low priority, and to clean up the high and medium priority wells by July 2023.

He also told regulators to review how the state pays for orphaned wells.