Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
The American oil and gas industry started in Pennsylvania. Our state is also home to an estimated 27,000 documented orphaned or abandoned oil and gas wells. These wells were drilled decades ago when regulations were less stringent or nonexistent, and many were never correctly plugged. As a result, they pose a severe threat to the environment and to public health.
Orphaned wells are idle wells that the commonwealth has verified as not having an operator. Abandoned wells are also inactive, but may still have a responsible party (although it’s unlikely that party will take responsibility to clean them up).
As with any structure constructed with steel and concrete, these wells, which have been exposed to the elements and haven’t been maintained for several decades, are decaying and falling apart. They can leak oil and brine, potentially contaminating the soil, groundwater, and surface water. They also can, and often do, release methane, a potent and explosive greenhouse gas.