September 15, 2021

LA County to Develop Oil Well Clean-up Pilot Program

Los Angeles, CA — Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to develop an Oil Well Clean-up Program proposed by Supervisor Janice Hahn. This was in addition to votes the Board took today to begin phasing out oil and gas drilling in unincorporated LA County and to develop a strategy to ensure workers can transition to new, good-paying jobs in clean energy.

There are thousands of oil wells across LA County that are no longer in operation and many of them have yet to be properly plugged and capped to prevent them from leaking.

“So far, we have identified 637 idle oil wells across the County and 128 of them are considered ‘high priority’ which means they are close to homes or at risk of leaking,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Many of these wells have been sitting idle for years. As we move to phase out oil and gas drilling in our unincorporated communities, we also need to make sure the abandoned and idle wells that already exist in our county are properly plugged and capped so they don’t pose a threat to our communities.”

Proper well abandonment is expensive with costs ranging from $150,000 to $1,000,000 per well, depending on environmental conditions. California state law holds operators responsible for properly abandoning idle wells and in the case of insolvent or unknown operators, CalGEM must step in and plug orphan wells and charge costs to oil and gas producers. Additionally, recent state legislation has increased bonding requirements, idle well fees and use of idle well management plans.

The Hahn motion passed today directs the County to develop a framework within 180 days for an Oil Well Clean-Up Pilot Program which will plug and abandon idle oil wells across the County, prioritizing oil wells that pose health and safety risks to residents. The motion also instructs the County’s Chief Executive Officer to explore options to increase revenue dedicated to oil and gas oversight efforts, such as updating the utility franchise fees and redirecting any marginal revenue accruals to the Office of Oil and Gas, and report back to the Board within 90 days.

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