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Governor signs into law bill by South Coast legislator to reduce orphaned gas, oil wells

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California Department of Conservation photo
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An idle well in northern Santa Barbara County

State currently gets stuck managing abandoned wells.

A new law authored by a South Coast legislator is intended to insure the state doesn’t get stuck paying to deal with idle or abandoned gas and oil wells.

AB 896 allows the state to use tax liens to get money from well operators for work like plugging and capping wells.

State regulators say they identified more than 3200 potentially new abandoned wells in 2019. Operators failed to pay mandatory well fees for more than two-thirds of those wells. More than 300 of the idle wells are on the Central and South Coasts.

Democratic State Assemblyman Steve Bennett of Ventura authored the legislation. He says if operators abandon these wells, the state ultimately is forced to deal with the environmental and financial consequences.