OERB Celebrates 25 Years Of Restoration Work

Wednesday, May 15th 2019, 8:10 pm
By: Erick Payne

The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board is celebrating 25 years of cleaning up abandoned oil and gas well sites.

Experts estimate more than 500,000 wells were drilled since statehood.

They've restored more than 17,000 wells total. That's about 2 to 3 every day over the past couple decades, including several at Hughes Ranch in Osage County.

"Back 100 years ago this is some of the earliest oil fields in the U.S. on a ranch," Robert Hughes said.

Robert Hughes' says his ranch has been in the family since the 1930s. They inherited a big problem though.

"The old oil pioneers, there wasn't a lot of incentive for taking care of the land," Hughes

Hughes was left with dozens of abandoned oil and gas sites -- which didn't age well.

"A lot of this damage was done 100 years ago," Hughes said.

In the past 15 years, he says the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board has helped clean up about 80 different sites on his land. It includes a spot where crews are burying concrete from a former well. When they're done, it'll be as if it was never here.

"It's just a real blessing to have that relationship with them and to be healing up these spots where once was a terrible eyesore and now we have an asset, something that looks good," Hughes said.

The OERB has spent more than 120 million dollars restoring land across Oklahoma. Executive Director Mindy Stitt says their work isn't close to being done yet.

"It's voluntarily funded and we're able to do a lot with those funds," Stitt said.

"I'll tell you what, the oil producers are getting a real bang for their buck, not only image-wise but getting people real help, from damage they may not have done, but their industry did," Hughes said.

The OERB says if you know of a site that needs to be cleaned up, you can register it online here. Once registered, you may have to wait anywhere from several months to a year at least.