Stogner descries ‘zombie wells’

Midland oil and gas attorney says improperly plugged oil and natural gas wells must be addressed

Former Texas Railroad Commission candidate Sarah Stogner is pursuing a “zombie wells” project to clean up and properly plug the abandoned oil and natural gas wells that dot and often pollute Texas’ landscape.

The Midland oil and gas attorney said Tuesday that there “are zombie wells everywhere, 100,000 statewide that were inadequately plugged or capped.”

“No one could anticipate at the time in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s the massive amounts of the produced water we would need to inject as a result of the shale revolution,” she said. “We can’t fault our forefathers for not predicting this, but we have to fault ourselves if we don’t recognize that prior practices and even today’s practices are inadequate to address the realities of what wellbores are exposed to in the modern day oil and gas industry.”

Stogner said she has been hired to address the problem on the Antina Ranch south of Monahans at the Ward-Crane County line, but she would keep using all means, including lobbying the Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, even if the zombie wells were correctly plugged on the ranch.

“If the Antina Ranch were taken care of tomorrow, I would continue on my mission to fix these orphan wells across Texas,” she said, “If we don’t, I think we’re going to lose our social license to operate as an industry.”

Stogner lost a May 24 runoff to incumbent Republican Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian and she has endorsed Christian’s Nov. 8 Democratic opponent, Luke Warford.

Acknowledging that such a cleanup would be very expensive, she said she would attend today’s meeting of the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation at the Ector Theater and submit written comments.

”We have a different platform in the Permian Basin, absorbing all that flowback from production in the Delaware and Midland basins,” Stogner said. “We have all this water from the Midland coming west and water from the Delaware coming back east.

“The RRC and the TCEQ keep passing the buck and I have told them that we need to work together. Pointing fingers is not acceptable. The Railroad Commission in particular should step up and do its job. If a well was drilled with the intent to explore or produce, we absolutely have to make sure that well is plugged.“