It is an obvious statement of fact that every well drilled will reach the end of its productive life. When the well reaches that point, plugging is the appropriate and environmentally sound solution. Unfortunately, there are a large percentage of wells which are idle, not because their resources have been depleted, but because they have become unprofitable due to low product prices or high production and environmental compliance costs. At this time the latter two are more likely. Most idle wells do not pose an environmental threat. Idle wells could potentially provide the states and the nation with much needed domestic production. It is in the best interest of the oil and gas states to insure that no well is prematurely plugged. The states recognize the economic potential of idle wells, but also realize that many of these wells represent potential liability. The responsibility of plugging orphan wells -- those where the operator has gone out of business or is insolvent -- falls on the states. For some states this is a large burden. Though orphan wells are the greatest burden, the states are usually responsible for monitoring the status of all idle wells. Facing this challenge, the oil and gas states have developed some effective solutions.

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