Growing problems with orphaned, abandoned wells challenges oil industry

The White House is aiming to inject major cash into well-plugging activities, and new groups in Texas, such as Commission Shift, have sprung up this year to help lobby and draw attention to the potential ticking time bombs of orphaned or undocumented wells. The Permian Basin has become dotted with more unnaturally-occurring phenomena, including the Wink Sinks sinkholes and the so-called Boehmer Lake from failed wells drilled decades ago.

There is also the fear that new drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity — as well as the associated saltwater disposal wells — increasingly will interfere with and rupture older well sites, threatening air quality and water supplies often without any visible problems above the surface, said Virginia Palacios, executive director of the new Commission Shift group focused on reforming and better funding the Texas Railroad Commission that oversees state oil and gas regulations.

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