WASHINGTON, DC - On Friday, Congressman Bob Gibbs introduced the Innocent Landowners Protection Act to give Americans who have never been involved in the drilling and production of an orphaned well from being considered a responsible party in the capping and cleanup of said wells. The bill amends the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) to ensure the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) can no longer misapply the definition of “responsible party” and go after those with no connection to the operation of orphaned wells.

The bill will speed up the identification and cleanup of orphaned oil and gas wells as some states have stopped seeking assistance from NPFC, which manages the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, as a result of the NPFC seeking compensation for oil well cleanup from parties deemed not responsible by the state.

“This appears to be a classic case of government bureaucracies run amok,” said Congressman Gibbs after introducing the legislation. “The NPFC is unwittingly working against its own mission by inappropriately labeling innocent landowners as responsible parties for orphaned or leaking oil and gas wells, many of which are 75 years old or older. My bill will provide a simple, definitional fix that will make it easier for state agencies to work with landowners to remediate environmental hazards from orphaned wells. I have said for many years that the vast majority of Americans want to do the right thing when it comes to environmental protection, and fixing this bureaucratic nonsense allows them to do so without fear of liability for a problem they did not create.”

According to the Ohio River Valley Institute, there are an estimated 538,000 unplugged abandoned oil and gas wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Data from the Environmental Defense Fund shows Cuyahoga County with 69 orphaned wells while Lorain County contains 61. Wood County leads Ohio with 70 orphaned wells.

Gibbs was joined by Rep. Troy Balderson (OH-12), Rep. Bob Latta (OH-05), and Rep. David McKinley (WV-01).

The text of the legislation can be found here