This week, 30 western grassroots and advocacy groups sent a letter to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Tracy Stone-Manning urging her agency to update the Bureau’s federal onshore oil and gas bonding program. Impacted communities and split-estate landowners throughout the West are ready to see BLM take expedient action to update the program, which hasn’t been updated in over six decades–even as costs to reclaim today’s far deeper and more complex wells have skyrocketed. According to GAO analysis, at least 99.5% of federal wells carry bonds that are insufficient to cover the cost of reclamation. Currently, the responsibility of plugging and reclaiming oil and gas wells falls on communities, landowners, and taxpayers. Organizations throughout the West have seen this issue play out first hand; when oil and gas wells are not properly plugged and reclaimed, local communities bear the brunt of contaminated soil, groundwater, and air.

Powder River Basin Resource Council leader Jill Morrison said, “American taxpayers have spent billions of dollars over six decades to clean up after the oil and gas industry, one of the richest industries on Earth. Today, we are calling on the Bureau of Land Management to
implement full bonding requirements that ensure oil and gas operations pay for the reclamation and plugging of oil and gas wells that they drill and produce on public and private land overlying federal minerals. American taxpayers must finally stop subsidizing oil and gas corporations, and
it’s long overdue for BLM to create standards that ensure full cleanup and reclamation of federal wells.”

Anne Hedges, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at Montana Environmental Information Center said, “It’s time to protect taxpayers from the environmental harm caused by oil and gas extraction. BLM should update its rules to protect the public and the environment from an industry with a poor track record. Better rules on bonding will incentivize more responsible extraction and ensure that water and public lands are protected.”