Bennet Announces Legislation to Improve Oil and Gas Leasing & Cleanup on Public Lands

Pair of Bills Would Expand Opportunities for Public Input, Modernize Bonding Standards, Create Jobs, & Reduce Pollution

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced legislation to clean up abandoned, or orphaned, oil and gas wells while strengthening bonding requirements and expanding opportunities for local input in lease sales on public lands. The two new bills would restore local governments’ and tax payers’ important role in public land management decisions, while ensuring they are not left on the hook for future cleanup and remediation costs.

“In Colorado, our economy – from ranching to recreation – depends on multiple shared uses of our public lands. This administration’s approach has too often undermined that multiple-use mission, cutting Colorado out of land management decisions and leaving local governments on the hook to clean up the mess,” said Bennet. “Investing in orphan well clean up would create good-paying jobs while helping reduce pollution, restore habitat, and protect our climate. Together, these bills restore the role of local leaders to have a greater voice in lease sales, hold all companies operating on public lands to the same high standards that responsible operators follow, and ensure that local governments and taxpayers aren’t burdened with the cost of cleanup.”

“While oil and gas development is an important part of our economy in Western Colorado, the communities I serve also depend on our public lands to sustain our recreation economy, maintain sustainable agricultural operations, support local businesses, and maintain our Western way of life. It is crucial local communities have adequate engagement opportunities to ensure the best use of local land management decisions. The orphaned well crisis has hit Colorado especially hard, leaving polluted landscapes, air, and water resources behind. This growing crisis has made it abundantly clear that our leaders need to act now to protect our iconic public lands and natural resources. Senator Bennet’s new legislation will ensure local communities have a seat at the table and hold oil and gas companies accountable for reclamation of their impacts and infrastructure instead of burdening taxpayers and communities with the exorbitant costs, and will protect our cherished landscapes for all their uses for years to come.” – Jonathan Houck, Gunnison County Commissioner 

“Eagle County knows that oil and gas wells that are abandoned by companies without being fully plugged and reclaimed pose many risks to communities and public lands. Orphaned wells can leak methane into the air, leach toxins into groundwater, harm wildlife and livestock, and impact other public lands resources and recreation opportunities. Funding for restoration of these orphaned wells, along with adequate federal bonding, is necessary for the health of residents and the stewardship of public lands. Lack of funding adversely and unfairly impacts state taxpayers, and damages the state’s economy and environment. Eagle County supports Senator Bennet's proposed legislation to address this critical issue.” – Kathy Chandler Henry Chair, Eagle County Commissioner

“Adequate federal bonding is a necessary insurance policy for publicly owned resources and public health, both for communities situated near public lands and for the taxpayers of our state who will otherwise be left to fund cleanup. We support Senator Bennet’s efforts to propose legislative solutions to these challenging issues and to protect all taxpayers from bearing the costs to cleanup oil and gas development on our public lands.” – Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County Commissioner

“Abandoned oil and gas wells which are not properly reclaimed are a huge burden on the American taxpayer. The transfer of liability and expense from the gas producers to the taxpayers after the wells are played out must stop. Energy producers have a responsibility to pay their way and let the market reflect the true cost of oil and gas production. Sen Bennet’s legislation will ensure that the full host of values are insured and that the bond amounts reflect actual reclamation costs.” – Greg Poschman, Pitkin County Commissioner

The Oil and Gas Bonding Reform and Orphaned Well Remediation Act would take a two-step approach to address the risk that orphaned wells pose to watersheds, wildlife, and livestock; reduce the burden on local governments; modernize federal standards; and create good-paying jobs. First, it would create a fund to dramatically expand orphaned well cleanup on federal, state, and tribal lands, creating oil field jobs. Second, it would modernize the federal oil and gas bonding requirements to reflect the true cost of reclamation, while increasing transparency. This will ensure that companies, rather than taxpayers or state and local governments, cover the costs of any cleanup.

Bill text is available HERE. A one-pager is available HERE.

The Public Engagement Opportunity on Public Land Exploration (PEOPLE) Act would restore the role of the public, county commissioners, and other local elected leaders in shaping decisions about public land management and lease sales. The bill would increase transparency for lease sale nominations and bids, establish adequate and consistent public notice and comment periods, and require outreach to local governments, landowners, and public land user groups to minimize future conflict.

Bill text is available HERE. A one-pager is available HERE

Letters of support for the Oil and Gas Bonding Reform and Orphaned Well Remediation Act and the PEOPLE Act are available HERE.