Letter: We need to ensure oil and gas companies clean up after themselves

Oil and gas companies have benefited from access to public minerals for the last century. Yet, very often, they abandon leaking wells and infrastructure, leaving taxpayers to pay for plugging the wells and remediating the sites. Many of us live on or near these littered landscapes and leaking wells, which can contaminate water and release methane and other hazardous gases. Federal land managers should stop enabling these sacrifice zones. Bonding requirements that ensure all operators can front the money to clean up is simply a reasonable cost of doing business — not the responsibility of us taxpayers. Cleaning up after ourselves is something most of us learned in kindergarten. Why should it be any different for oil and gas companies?

The Bureau of Land Management administers this national resource for the citizens and is using the same rules established in 1960 for well bonds with no adjustment for inflation or the true costs. That’s why the Western Colorado Alliance joins with the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Natural Resources Defense Council to submit a formal petition for a rulemaking that will ensure operators have the money to clean up after themselves before they are allowed to drill on federal leases, whether on public, private or reservation lands. The petition is provided at, together with a fact sheet at

The state estimates it costs $92,000 to clean up the average well. This wildly outdated rate accepted by BLM does not come close to meeting these costs. For example, a bond of $25,000 is all that’s required for one company’s wells in an entire state — and just $150,000 bond is required to cover all wells nationwide. That means a single $150,000 bond could be all that an oil and gas company is required to put down as its share for the cleanup of thousands of wells across the country — and the shortfall ultimately comes out of us taxpayers’ wallets. It’s a huge public subsidy to this industry.

It is critical that the DOI and BLM act now. The longer we procrastinate, the more damaging the consequences to our planet, our lands and our health. We owe it to each other and to future generations who will inherit our legacy to preserve and protect our lands and our planet. The time to be a good ancestor is now. Have your voice heard by emailing your opinion to on the need for this updated bonding regulation.

Barbara Vasquez, Jackson County

Rodger Steen, Routt County

Western Colorado Alliance

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