WASHINGTON — Bonds posted by companies with federal oil and gas leases cover only a fraction of the projected costs of plugging wells and restoring land once the fuel is extracted, leaving taxpayers with the potential for huge cleanup bills, an Associated Press analysis of federal records shows.
The Bureau of Land Management has collected just
$132 million in bonds from oil and gas companies responsible for more than 100,000 wells. The government estimates it costs between $2,500 and $75,000 to cap each well.
In the past five years, the BLM has spent $2.2 million to clean up 187 wells where operators defaulted. At that average rate of $13,066 per well, the shortfall between the bonds and the actual cleanup costs could leave taxpayers with as much as a $1 billion liability.