State releases orphan wells to be cleaned up first

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DENVER -- In February, state officials believed the issue of orphan wells was like a "hurricane."

They impacted the state with more than 250 known locations with an estimated cleanup date of at least 25 years.

In July, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order to speed up the process -- ordering a cleanup by 2023 with $5 million from the General Assembly.

On Wednesday, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission announced which sites are listed as a high priority for cleanup.

There are 365 orphan locations with 63 listed as "high priority."

"I don't think there is a lot of risk from any of these wells but I don't think there should be any risk," Hickenlooper said Wednesday.

"We are going after the ones that are the highest risk first but the goal is to get through all of them within five years."

Barbara Binder, an Adams County resident, reacted positively to the news but hopes the state follows through on its commitment.

"My concern though is these wells are out there and have been out there a long time and it's not going to be a fixed overnight -- they are still a safety hazard to the community they are in," Binder said.

The COGCC earlier this week committed to look at higher assurance bonds for oil and gas operations.

It is often very easy for a company to abandon a site losing only a small amount of money.

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