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Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo’s Orphan Well Prevention Act Moves to Governor’s Desk

For immediate release:
  • Edmundo Cuevas
  • (916) 319-2052

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California Legislature voted to pass AB 1167 (Carrillo), the Orphan Well Prevention Act, sending the bill to the Governor with the vote of 64 Legislators in support of it. AB 1167 would halt the abandonment of idle or marginally producing oil wells by prohibiting their transfer, unless the state receives a bond equal to the full cost of site cleanup when they are sold, protecting taxpayer dollars in the event the well becomes “orphaned.” The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environment California are co-sponsoring the bill, and it enjoys support from a broad coalition of environmental advocates.

“Today, with AB 1167, the Orphan Well Prevention Act, heading to the Governor's desk, the Legislature is mandating we stop a system that facilitates the sale of large numbers of idle and low-producing wells to operators who are quite obviously not in a position to clean them up, and ultimately abandon them when they stop producing oil. California is not collecting nearly enough bond funding to cover the actual cost of sealing an abandoned well, so raising the rate to do so will stem the tide of wells we know are nearing the end of their life from becoming the responsibility of the state,” said Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles).

California currently has about 70,000 active wells and 35,000 idle wells in total. According to the California Council on Science and Technology, over 5,000 wells are very likely orphaned. The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) estimates there are another 18,000 more that have yet to be documented and 40,000 likely to become orphaned in the next few years, including approximately 1,400 across Los Angeles County. Recently, the Los Angeles City Council took a position to support the measure led by Councilwoman Heather Hutt (CD-10).

“These wells pose serious threats to public health, safety, and the environment. They can leak oil, gas, and other contaminants into the air, water, and soil. In my district alone, alongside Echo Park, Dodger Stadium and surrounding communities, once known as the ‘Los Angeles City Oil Field,’ there are close to 200-orphaned oil wells that continue to harm the health, wellbeing and safety of residents. To add insult to injury, the CALGEM website shows orphaned oil wells capped in traditionally more affluent communities on the Westside, while the Eastside remains neglected. It has been easy for the oil industry to neglect capping orphaned oil wells and pass on the costs to taxpayers, but not anymore, not on my watch. Enough is enough. I now look to the Governor who has the final say to join us in protecting California taxpayers from having to shoulder oil well cleanup costs, and our communities from exposure to methane and other pollutants that impact their health and our environment,” concluded Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles).

AB 1167 supports applying more acute interventions to the riskiest transactions — the transfer of ownership of a well —and several studies show the riskiest transactions are idle and marginally producing wells that this bill covers.

Additional Statements:

Following is a statement from Councilwoman Heather Hutt (CD10 – Los Angeles):

"The passing of the Orphan Well Prevention Act through the Legislature is a huge victory for the entire state of California. The potential harm posed by oil well pollution to our communities cannot be underestimated, as it can cause extreme financial and health problems for our residents. It is imperative that the City and State legislature work together to safe-guard the wellbeing of each and every individual, and I commend Assemblymember Carrillo for her tireless efforts to preserve our environment and our community.”

Following is a statement from Ann Alexander, Senior Attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

“The California legislature has been courageous and decisive today in the face of fierce opposition by Big Oil. We are finally on the brink of taking an important step to halt the slow-moving catastrophe of orphan wells in our state.  We need the governor to show the same courage as this bill heads for his desk."

Following is a statement from Laura Deehan, State Director at Environment California:

“The pollution from oil drilling doesn’t end when the wells run dry. AB 1167 will help make sure that idle wells’ owners take responsibility for cleaning up their messes. Ensuring that any company buying a high-risk well has enough funds to eventually plug and clean up that well is a commonsense way to protect Californians as the state shifts away from burning dirty oil and gas for energy. It’s unfair for taxpayers to foot the bill for cleaning up orphan wells that endanger our neighborhoods. Oil companies are raking in record profits. They don’t need our help.


Assemblywoman Carrillo was elected to serve in the State Assembly in December 2017. She represents the 52nd Assembly District, which includes East Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles and South Glendale. She serves as the Chair of the Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration, in addition to the Assembly Committees on Appropriations, Health, Housing and Community Development, Utilities and Energy, Budget Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process, Oversight and Program Evaluation, and the Joint Committees on Legislative Budget, and Climate Change Policies. She also serves as the Chair of the Select Committee on Latina Inequities, Vice Chair of the Legislative Progressive Caucus, as a Commissioner for the California Film Commission and serves on the California Cultural and Historical Endowment Board.