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Colorado Orphaned Wells Expected To Be Plugged In 5 Years

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - What happened in April 2017 in Firestone was not the result of a so-called orphaned well, but the two deaths from the explosion there set in motion a concern.

Firestone home explosion (7)
(credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper cited the incident as he signed an executive order on Wednesday to get rid of abandoned or the so-called orphaned wells.

"It's not just what happened in that specific instance. I'm not sure we've ever seen that before or will see it again."

(credit CBS)

Hickenlooper ordered an inspection of gas and oil wells around the state following the Firestone tragedy. CBS4 went along as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissions inspectors attempted to make sure the wells were safe.

Now, the governor has signed an executive order to address the safety of 260 orphaned wells with no known owner.

(credit: CBS)

The Oil and Gas Industry will be part of the plugging and remediation of the sites.

Tracee Bentley of the Colorado Petroleum Institute says the owners of the abandoned wells are hard to find and hold responsible for their mitigation.

"Certainly we have had some operators come into the states who lost financial backing and left the state in a quick manner," she said.

GOV ORPHAN WELLS 5PKG.transfer_frame_1198
CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Tracee Bentley. (credit: CBS)

Sara Loflin lives near wells that are not abandoned, but feels more needs to be done to protect their integrity,

"To avoid blow outs, leaks and spills," she said.

She is the leader of The League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans which represents people in communities near oil and gas facilities. She calls the governor's executive order "a start."

There are some 55,000 oil and gas wells around the state. Only about 260 are "orphaned." The number is expected to be down to zero in five years.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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