West Virginia
Surface Owners’ Rights Organization
Jul 31, 2020 View this Alert Online


Hi {contact.email_greeting},

What’s up?

There is a good chance that West Virginia and other states can get money in the next federal stimulus bill to plug more orphaned wells!  

WVSORO is proud that it got three bills passed in the last State legislative session that could plug scores of orphaned wells.  But there are so many orphaned wells now that, without more money, plugging the existing 4,500 orphaned wells will take decades.  And there are thousands more coming!  

WVSORO has been working with the IOGCC (a national organization of state oil and gas drilling regulators) and other organizations, and even our State oil and gas drilling organizations to try to get money put into the next stimulus package to plug orphaned wells.  

This will create jobs by putting laid off oil and gas field workers to work.  That is a good thing, but of course we like it for more reasons.  Plugging these wells will help rectify years of government inaction on well plugging that has resulted in orphaned wells devaluing our surface property rights by threatening to, or actually, polluting our groundwater and spilling on our surface.  

Our national contacts think we are OK in the House of Representatives.  And Senator Capito has talked to us, and we have communicated with Senator Manchin’s staff.  But we think it would be good to encourage our senators to work hard to get their colleagues to agree to direct money to plug orphaned wells in the next stimulus bill.  (It is hard to keep up with which bill with which acronym name will pass which chamber in which order, so we just talk about being in a “stimulus” bill.)

 How can I help?

The short message is:

“Please help, and encourage your Senate colleagues to help, to put money in the next stimulus bill to plug orphaned oil and gas wells.”

The longer message is:

“Please help, and encourage your Senate colleagues to help, to put money in the next stimulus bill to plug orphaned oil and gas wells.  Current funds, including new state legislation, will take decades to plug the 4,500 existing orphaned wells and there are thousands more coming.  We need to keep oil and gas workers employed, we need to make up for decades of government inaction, and we need to plug these wells that devalue our surface property by threatening, or actually, polluting our ground water and leaking onto our surface.”

The best thing is to call and leave a message with one of their staff members, even if it is just the short one.  Don’t worry about not being able to answer questions and talking more.  Just leaving a short message is powerful.  They hear from lots of lobbyists.  They listen to constituents more!  Here are the phone numbers.  If you do not get a live person when you call, then use the senator’s email system below.

You can also send an email or use their opinion gathering portals.  This would also help.

  • Email Senator Manchin Here
    • Click on the box that says,  “Share Your Opinion on Legislation”.  When you get to a box that says “–Select an Issue–” use “General/Other”.
  • Email Senator Capito Here

    • When you get to a box that says “–Select an Issue–” use “Economy”.  



Gas pipeline/field tap abandonment!


Equitrans, L.P. has filed a proceeding with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to “abandon” 877 miles of pipeline and nine compressor stations in Braxton, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Ritchie, Taylor, Tyler, and Wetzel Counties.  These lines were historically, mostly laid as gathering lines from conventional vertical gas wells to transmission lines and to market.  

However, the overlap/divide between gathering lines, transmission lines, and utility lines is extraordinarily blurred.  Of particular interest to WVSORO are people in rural West Virginia who get natural gas for their homes directly or indirectly from those “gathering” lines.  (This is not about “free gas” from wellheads.) According to a document filed by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) there are approximately 3,500 customers who are served by “field taps” or who are behind domestic meters served by these “gathering” pipelines and facilities!

WVSORO has filed as an “”intervenor” in that FERC proceeding!  Our goal is to preserve natural gas service to those folks and maybe more who may want to add on.  

The problem behind this problem is that the gas wells feeding those gathering lines are older pre-Marcellus wells, and their production is inevitably and unstoppably going down, down, down over time.  And Marcellus etc. shale horizontal wells are so much more cost effective that no new wells are being drilled to replace those gas wells that use these “gathering” lines.  In addition the Marcellus well drilling “play” is in fewer counties.

Equitrans wants FERC’s permission to “abandon” these lines by selling them for a “nominal” price to another company, like maybe Peoples Gas utility.  If Equitrans can’t do that, it wants permission to be able to just walk away from the lines!  Equitrans says that these lines are no longer its “core” business.  Is that just because it makes a lot more money now gathering from Marcellus wells that require different infrastructure and does not want the hassle of these lines?  As the pressure from existing wells continues to decline, can the lines be used to continue supply rural folks by attaching lines connecting to transmission lines?  Are the lines in the system in such bad shape that in fact Equitrans should pay someone to take them off its hands?  If natural gas service is cut off will Equitrans or someone pay to convert a user to solar or electric or propane?

The West Virginia Pubic Service Commission has filed in the FERC proceeding and it as started its own separate “general investigation” into the problem.  The Consumer Advocate of the Public Service Commission has filed saying Equitrans is breaking a deal it made when the PSC let Equitrans’ predecessor break apart.  The drilling industry has filed too because it needs these lines to sell gas from its conventional wells to someone.

There are lots of moving parts, and it is hard to keep p with all of this and even know exactly how FERC and the PSC should proceed.  But we will try to at least keep asking the questions we think need answered.

If  you think you are getting gas from one of these field taps (you would have a meter and be paying) contact us and let us know so we can find out more about the situation of our members with these field taps.

The FERC docket number is CP20-312.  The latest PSC investigation number is 20-0454-G-P.

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