OERB Pushes Ahead With Cleanup of More than 16,000 Abandoned Wellsites in Oklahoma

The number of orphaned and abandoned well sites restored by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board reached 16,000 in 2017.

The OERB, in its 2017 annual report  released this month indicated the organization restored 760 sites last year and for the first time, cleaned up a site in Harmon County. The number is an increase from the 662 abandoned well sites restored in 2016.  It was in the same year when the OERB reached its 15,000th well site to be restored.

“In 2017, the OERB completed its first environmental restoration project in Harmon County,” stated the annual report. “This brings the total to 71 counties of Oklahoma’s 77 where the OERB has cleaned up orphaned and abandoned well sites.”

The first restoration in Harmon county, located in far southwestern Oklahoma was just outside of the town of Vinson. The report indicated the project was associated with historical oil and natural gas exploration and production activities and included a location pad with a tank and other debris.

The landowner, Jim Thompson uses the property for his cattle ranch. He called the OERB and laid the groundwork for restoring the ranch land back to its original condition.

As for the 16,000th well site restoration, it was in Stephens County east of Comanche. It was an abandoned location pad from the 1930s. The concrete was removed and remediation of an area of erosion was made at a cost of about $18,000. When work is finished, the restored site will be home to a new pond.

“We are thrilled to have reached the 16,000 milestone,” said OERB Environmental Director Steve Sowers. “That number means a significant portion of Oklahoma’s land has been restored to its original beauty and in this case, is useable for livestock.”

While the OERB was created to resolve the issue of abandoned well sites, it has ventured deeper and deeper every year into education. The organization, led by a 21-member board of directors has indicated a commitment to “raising the bar for Oklahoma education.” It has joined forces with several key educational partners.

“At a time when schools are struggling to provide classroom resources, the OERB has continued to step up and provide teachers with quality educational materials,” said Mindy Stitt, Executive Director. “Nearly 1,500 teachers attend workshops each year and receive kits of classroom materials valued at up to $1,100.”