AB-2729 Oil and gas: operations. – changing the definition of an abandoned well

AB-2729 Oil and gas: operations. - changing the definition of an abandoned well
AB 2729, as introduced, Williams. Oil and gas: operations.
(1) Under existing law, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources in the Department of Conservation regulates the drilling, operation, maintenance, and abandonment of oil and gas wells in the state. Existing law requires the State Oil and Gas Supervisor to supervise the drilling, operation, maintenance, and abandonment of wells and the operation, maintenance, and removal or abandonment of tanks and facilities related to oil and gas production within an oil and gas field, so as to prevent damage to life, health, property, and natural resources, as provided; to permit owners and operators of wells to utilize all known methods and practices to increase the ultimate recovery of hydrocarbons; and to perform the supervisor’s duties in a manner that encourages the wise development of oil and gas resources to best meet oil and gas needs in this state. Existing law defines, among other things, “active observation well,” “idle well,” and “long-term idle well” for the purposes of these provisions. Existing law provides that an active observation well is not an idle well.
This bill would limit the definition of “active observation well,” and would expand the definitions of “idle well” and “long-term idle well” by no longer excluding active observation wells from their definitions. The bill would provide that the abandoned underground personal property of an operator becomes the property of the mineral interest owner.
(2) Existing law establishes the Hazardous and Idle-Deserted Well Abatement Fund in the State Treasury. Existing law directs fee moneys collected from operators of idle wells to be deposited in the fund. The moneys in the fund are continuously appropriated to the department for expenditure without regard to fiscal year, to mitigate a hazardous or potentially hazardous condition by well plugging and abandonment.
This bill would instead provide that the moneys in the fund are continuously appropriated to the department for expenditure without regard to fiscal year to mitigate a hazardous or potentially hazardous condition, by well plugging and abandonment, decommissioning attendant production facilities, or both, at a well of a feepaying operator. Because the bill would provide for the deposit of additional moneys in a continuously appropriated fund by expanding the definition of an “idle well,” described above, and would change the purposes for which moneys in a continuously appropriated fund may be used, it would make an appropriation.
(3) Existing law provides that a well is properly abandoned when it has been shown, to the satisfaction of the supervisor, that all proper steps have been taken to isolate all oil-bearing or gas-bearing strata encountered in the well, and to protect underground or surface water suitable for irrigation or farm or domestic purposes from the infiltration or addition of any detrimental substance and to prevent subsequent damage to life, health, property, and other resources.
This bill would provide that proper steps include the plugging of the well, decommissioning the attendant production facilities of the well, or both, if determined necessary by the supervisor.
(4) Existing law authorizes the supervisor or district deputy to order the reabandonment of any previously abandoned well if the supervisor or the district deputy has reason to question the integrity of the previous abandonment. Existing law prescribes the circumstances in which the operator responsible for plugging and abandoning a deserted well is not responsible for the reabandonment of the well. Under existing law, a person who fails to comply with an order issued under these provisions and other requirements relating to the regulation of oil or gas operations is guilty of a misdemeanor.
This bill instead would authorize the supervisor or district deputy to order, or permit, the reabandonment of any previously abandoned well if the supervisor or the district deputy has reason to question the integrity of the previous abandonment, or if the well is not accessible or visible. The bill would revise the circumstances in which the operator responsible for plugging and abandoning a deserted well is not responsible for the reabandonment of the well, and would provide that being responsible for the reabandonment means that the responsible party or parties shall complete the reabandonment and be subject to certain requirements applicable to an operator of a well. Because a violation of an order issued under these provisions would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(5) Existing law authorizes the supervisor to order certain operations to be carried out on any property in the vicinity of which, or on which, is located any well that the supervisor determines to be either a hazardous or idle-deserted well, as specified.
This bill would authorize a party to plug and abandon a well that the supervisor has determined to be either a hazardous or idle-deserted well by obtaining all necessary rights to the well, and would require that party to be subject to certain requirements applicable to an operator of a well, file with the supervisor the appropriate bond or deposit, and complete the abandonment, as specified. Because a violation of an order issued under these provisions or of certain requirements related to the regulation of oil and gas would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(6) Existing law prescribes requirements related to acquiring the right to operate a well or production facility, filing with the supervisor an individual indemnity bond for each well drilled, redrilled, deepened, or permanently altered, filing with the supervisor a blanket indemnity bond in lieu of individual indemnity bonds, operators of idle wells not covered under certain indemnity bonds, and the cancellation of an individual or blanket indemnity bond. Existing law directs fee moneys collected from operators of idle wells to be deposited in the Hazardous and Idle-Deserted Well Abatement Fund, a continuously appropriated fund.
Commencing January 1, 2018, this bill would revise and recast these provisions to, among other things, increase the amounts of the required individual and blanket indemnity bonds, require a person acquiring the right to operate a well or production facility to file a specified individual or blanket indemnity bond for each well, increase the fees required to be filed for each idle well if the operator does not file a plan with the supervisor to provide for the management and elimination of all its long-term idle wells, repeal the ability of an operator to provide an escrow account or indemnity bond for each idle well in lieu of paying a fee or filing a plan, and revise the conditions for the cancellation of an individual or blanket indemnity bond. Because the bill would provide for the deposit of additional moneys in a continuously appropriated fund by increasing the amount of fees required to be filed for each idle well, it would make an appropriation. Because a violation of an order issued under these provisions or of certain requirements related to the regulation of oil and gas would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
This bill would require the division, by June 1, 2018, to review and evaluate, and update as appropriate, its regulations pertaining to idle wells, as specified.
(7) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

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