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Nonprofit helping Montana landowners cap abandoned hazards – Brospar Daily News

Montana will receive $25 million in federal funding to help curb more than 230 orphan wells, many of which have been collecting rust and emitting dangerous chemicals for years.

Orphaned or abandoned wells are often operating gas or oil wells whose owners have long forgotten about them, but not the landowners, as they have to deal with the effects of the well being disconnected.

Many of these wells were initially abandoned before land restoration requirements were in place, becoming loopholes for owners to forget about the wells.

The problem has been recognized and the state is working on it. Montana has set aside $650,000 every two years to cap orphan wells and plans to cap all wells by 2025.

Montana Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (BOGC) Administrator Ben Jones said the board had an orphan well capping project in operation since the early 1990s and had successfully covered more than 430 capping projects. in Montana. The commission first identified orphan wells in Montana, then ranked them on a list based on priority, with the most harmful being the highest.

Jones said there are currently about 238 orphan wells on the list, including five in Yellowstone County.

Many of these landowners found themselves in this situation after inheriting land from their parents or grandparents who benefited from the money the original well owners paid to use the land, unaware that the company would abandon their wells.

The dangers range from methane emissions to drinking water contamination and combustion. Wells also hamper farmers’ ability to cultivate and harvest their land.

Many property owners agree that having these isolated wells on their property can literally be a headache. Born and raised near Shelby, Sam Stewart sadly cared for 16 orphan wells on land he purchased from a neighbor over 40 years ago.

At the time of purchase, Stewart believed that only three or four wells were still functioning. He wondered how companies could justify abandoning wells.

“We know there are people pumping oil and it’s kind of weird why they don’t take any responsibility,” Stewart said.

Stewart had to get creative when planning how to farm the land, as there were 16 rusty obstacles in his way. Every year he has to maneuver his farm equipment around these wells until one man’s passion project comes to the rescue.

Stewart was relieved to find that some of those wells would be plugged by a nonprofit organization from Montana. A team went out, inspected the wells, successfully plugged 10 wells and restored the land.

This patching project was made possible by a man struggling to solve a problem that he, like many others, had not realized existed. This is where the Well Done Foundation comes in.

Curtis Shuck spent nearly 30 years in various careers in the oil business before leaving production to make a difference. Shook found an abandoned well while driving through northern Montana and decided that night he needed to make a change.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw, and that’s the real reason I started the mission. I couldn’t get over that picture that night on my way back from Shelby to Bozeman. It was three years ago. Something happened,” Shook recalled.

Since the foundation’s inception, teams have successfully plugged 22 wells across the country, including several in Montana. Although the foundation now operates nationwide, it plans to plug 10 more wells in Montana by the end of the year.

The first well the Foundation was able to plug was on Stewart’s land on Earth Day three years ago. Although they have capped 10 wells on the Stewart property, they plan to cap the remaining 6 wells after completing other projects they are working on.

Similar to the process used by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to identify and rank orphan wells, the Well Done Foundation identifies, investigates, plugs and restores land based on priority, with the most dangerous wells ranked highest. .

The foundation operates on the basis of donations, corporate sponsorships and the sale of its carbon offset products.

Shook pointed out that to completely solve this problem, more people are needed to join.

” It’s a team sport. This is an opportunity for the industry, the community and the environment to really get involved to do good, without finger pointing and finger pointing,” Shook said.

“The real story here is anyone can make a difference. If I can be inspired by what I see, take on challenges and solve problems, then anyone can do it,” Shook added.

The funding received by Montana is an important first step in recognizing this growing problem. If the funding is not enough to plug all the orphan wells, the Well Done Foundation can help.

If you would like to donate to the Well Done Foundation or to learn more about how it works, please visit www.welldonefoundation.org.

First Look: The Impact of Orphan Oil and Gas Wells in Montana

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