Abandoned Wells
Addressing Abandoned Wells in the 30th District

According to a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on Nov. 28, many abandoned gas and oil wells in Pennsylvania should be plugged to prevent leaks that threaten community safety and the environment. The Post-Gazette article reported that “depending on its state of decay, each well is a potential conduit for gas and oil to reach the surface, can interfere with modern drilling, pollute streams and drinking water, create explosion hazards in homes and add the potent greenhouse gas methane to the atmosphere.” The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials report that they are aware of approximately 8,000 abandoned wells across Pennsylvania that need attention. The DEP is working with conventional drilling representatives on plans to address the issue. The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CMA) is also awarding grants, funded by the shale drillers’ impact fees, to help communities plug leaking wells. I’m pleased to report that a portion of CMA’s recent $657,000 grants from impact fees has been awarded to Richland Township to plug two abandoned wells in its community. See below for more information:

Richland Township to Receive $192,000 Grant, Says English

HARRISBURG – Rep. Hal English (R-Allegheny) announced today that Richland Township will receive a $192,400 grant to plug two gas wells which pose a health and safety concern to local residents.

“This was a joint effort between Speaker Mike Turzai, Sen. Randy Vulakovich and myself,” said English. “We worked together to establish the priority of this project among all the requests and to gain the necessary approvals for the grant funds.”

The two abandoned wells, identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, are located on a residential property and a large undeveloped property in initial planning stages for a senior citizen community center.

“This grant provides funds to address a potentially dangerous hazard,” said English. “I’m glad we could assist Richland Township.”

This grant was approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

The full Nov. 28 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on Pennsylvania’s abandoned oil/gas wells is available here.

TribLive: Abandoned Richland gas well to get plugged in 2018

KAREN PRICE | Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Richland Township resident Charlie Brethauer and his wife enjoy sitting on their deck in the summer, but several years ago they began catching occasional whiffs of natural gas.

As the years went on, the smells came more frequently. Hoping to find the source, Brethauer started looking around and noticed a patch about 20 feet from his deck where the soil was dark and the smell was stronger. As it turned out, Brethauer's property contained one of the thousands of abandoned gas and oil wells located throughout the state.

“I took a shovel and smashed it down into the dirt and found it,” he said. “It was covered by an upside-down five-gallon bucket then covered with six inches of soil.”

Thanks to a $192,400 state grant awarded to Richland Township recently, that well, along with another abandoned well on the grounds of the former Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co., will be plugged in 2018.

Brethauer first approached the Richland Board of Supervisors in 2016 after a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who'd confirmed the well's existence, informed him about the grant program. Individual homeowners can't apply for the grants, Brethauer said, but certain entities, including municipalities and townships, can.

Although they did not receive the grant last year, the township reapplied and recently learned of the award given by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

Richland Township Manager Dean Bastianini credits the support of state Rep. Hal English, who saw the sites in person, House Speaker Mike Turzai and state Sen. Randy Vulakovich for their success in receiving the grant this year.

“They were instrumental in making sure our grant application received attention in Harrisburg,” Bastianini said. “Money is scarce and it's a very large problem, so without these state officials going to bat for us and seeking the award of the grant, there's no doubt it would not have happened.”

He and Brethauer both also credited the board of supervisors for recognizing the magnitude of the problem and authorizing the staff to work on the grant proposal. The board was expected to sign the agreement at the first meeting in December then begin seeking bids to complete the plugging of the two wells, with work expected to take place in 2018.

“The reality is there are thousands of wells like this in Pennsylvania with no responsible parties that can be identified,” Bastianini said. “Some of them date to the turn of the 1800s and they emit toxic, combustible fumes and pose an environmental threat and a threat to public health and safety. For these two in Richland to be plugged through this program is a testament to local and state governments working to make our community safer.”

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.

Click here to read the article at TribLive.com.