Kanawha State Forest Gas Well Tour – Update

WV Legislators and staff learn firsthand about dangers of leaky,

orphaned gas wells 

       On a Monday afternoon during the October Legislative interim session, the WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization (WVSORO), the WV Rivers Coalition, and the WV Environmental Council hosted an informational hike in Kanawha State Forest just outside of the capital city. Dave McMahon, counsel for WV SORO, led the excursion to several different well sites: One “orphaned” well too old to even know who drilled it or when. A well that is still in production and owned by Diversified. Another old orphan that was bubbling odorless methane. One that is owned by a local operator that has not produced in years, has not been plugged, and is leaking lots of methane and other smelly gasses. And finally a plugged well which had supposedly been properly decommissioned, but there is no way to tell for sure. When tested, three of the five sites had detectable gas leaks using the handheld monitors — Phew!

       The purpose of this excursion was to highlight the need for more DEP well inspectors and funding for plugging leaky orphaned wells because of the danger they pose to property values, groundwater, climate, and the health of local residents. We’ll also be asking lawmakers to pass the “Orphaned Gas Well Prevention Act” for new and transferred wells, to require drillers to set aside money in the Treasurer’s office as the well produces income to cover the eventual plugging costs when the wells stop producing (become “abandoned”). Most of these wells are located in rural areas, but many are close to homes as the ones recently brought to our attention in a neighborhood within the Charleston city limits. 

Dave McMahon (second from right) explains the process used to plug gas wells as the group views an old plugged well (to the left of Dave).


       We also have a tour video to elevate the issue, and show legislators who weren’t on the tour. You can find the video at youtube.com/@wvcitizenaction. Please share with your legislators and urge them to support the Orphaned Well Prevent Act!

Updated: January 16, 2024 — 3:13 pm
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