Report: Cleanup of abandoned oil, gas wells could cost US

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. government watchdog agency says taxpayers could potentially face hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs from abandoned oil and gas wells on public lands.

The Government Accountability Office said in a Wednesday report that it identified almost 2,300 wells that have not produced oil and gas since 2008 and have not been reclaimed.

The report says bankruptcies by well operators could saddle the government with $46 million to $333 million in potential reclamation liabilities. The wide range reflects the unknown costs of cleaning up the sites.

To avoid such a scenario, GAO recommended officials adjust the amount of bonds companies must post before drilling to better reflect possible cleanup costs.

Current rules allow companies to post bonds of $150,000 to cover their wells nationwide.

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