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OERB cleans up 3,000th abandoned well

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board is making quick work of abandoned wells.

The OERB recently finished cleaning up its 3,000th abandoned well in Oklahoma. It took the group six years to reclaim the first 2,000 sites but barely more than a year to do the next 1,000.

``The increase is a combination of two things,'' board Executive Director Mike Terry said Tuesday. ``We had an increase in our budget because of higher energy prices, plus we've built new efficiencies into the program.''

The 3,000th site was a parcel next to the North Canadian River in Oklahoma City, south of Interstate 40. The land was part of the vast Oklahoma City oil field of the 1920s and 1930s and is the future location of the Native American Cultural Center.

State Sen. Kelly Haney, D-Seminole, a member of the Seminole Nation, called the cleanup milestone ``a profound occasion.'' He praised the state energy industry for instituting the program, the first of its kind in the United States.

Fifty-five of 77 Oklahoma counties have had cleanups. Seminole County has had 613 board cleanup projects, and several counties have had more than 100.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission uses citizen complaints and field inspector recommendations to identify potential cleanup sites and then plug old wells.

The board's consultant, Beacon Environmental Assistance Corp. of Edmond, then cleans up the surrounding area by burying concrete, clearing oil and saltwater contamination and replanting vegetation.

The OERB and the Corporation Commission ``work in tandem,'' said Commissioner Bob Anthony.

The Corporation Commission spends about $600,000 per year on well pluggings, Anthony said. But ``the need is greater than the funds, so we have prioritize,'' he said.

Of $14 million spent by the energy board on site reclamation since early 1995, about $8 million has been spent in the past two years.

About $3.87 million of the board's 2002 budget of about $9 million will be spent for well cleanups, Terry said.

He said he expects about 600 to 800 wells will be cleaned up in 2002. Falling oil and gas prices have meant less income for the board.
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