Abandoned Oil, Gas Wells Get Plugged in New Mexico
More than 200 inactive oil and natural gas wells in New Mexico have been plugged as land managers have tried to crack down on producers as part of an accountability and enforcement program.
More than 200 inactive oil and natural gas wells in New Mexico have been plugged as land managers have tried to crack down on producers as part of an accountability and enforcement program in one of the top producing states in the US, officials said.
The State Land Office estimates it has saved taxpayers at least $20 million in cleanup costs over the past few years by having the industry pick up the tab.
The Land Office’s efforts are separate from work elsewhere that’s being funded by the federal government.
Congress in 2021 committed $4.7 billion in infrastructure spending to plug and reclaim orphaned wells and associated sites. The Bureau of Land Management awarded its first contracts last summer for work in Utah and California, while New Mexico and other states were awarded multimillion-dollar grants.
In New Mexico, the State Land Office says its work has resulted in a nearly 20% decrease in the number of abandoned wells on state trust lands, property that was allocated to New Mexico by the federal government more than a century ago so it could be used to raise revenues for public schools, hospitals, colleges, and other public institutions.
Several inactive wells dated to the 1980s, including one that hadn’t produced anything since 1982. Another well that went on the inactive list in 2020 had been drilled in 1925.
Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said the idea is to keep the state—and ultimately taxpayers—from having to pay for any messes that companies create on state trust lands.
“This program has proven that we can require companies to clean up after themselves and still deliver billions of dollars in record revenues for our schools and other institutions,” she said in a statement, adding that environmental compliance has been a priority for the office amid booming production in the state.