Lujan pushes to fund abandoned oil well cleanup in Permian Basin visit

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) meets with workers at an abandoned oil wells, Aug. 17, 2021 in Hobbs.

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) visited the Permian Basin Tuesday, touring an orphaned oil well in the Hobbs area as he pushed legislation to fund the cleanup of wells abandoned by operators.

Oil wells may be abandoned by operators when they become uneconomical, and Lujan worried they can pose environmental hazards in emitting air and water pollutants when inactive and unmonitored.

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In May 2020 as the pandemic took hold of New Mexico and the world, the State’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) reported 708 abandoned wells throughout the state, while regulators had only about $2 million in financial assurances from operators to pay for the cleanup.

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission reported more than 56,000 orphaned wells nationwide.