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DEP Reports +3k Abandoned Wells in PA + Operators' Failures to Report Results of Natural Gas Programs 1/25/2023

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted a review of well inspections and violations, which covered data from 2017-2021.  The review included 1,512 operators and >34,812 wells inspected via >63K separate inspections.  The DEP found 16K violations on the sample set of wells, with 11% of all wells having a violation and 33% of all operators.  The most common violation was a failure to plug abandoned wells, which spanned >3K wells in the review. 

Additionally, the DEP cited that "more than half of conventional oil and gas operators failed to report how much gas they pulled from the ground." The DEP report also says, "overall performance is so poor among conventional operators that the failure to report seems to be an industry-wide rule rather than the exception." The effects of these abandoned wells could be leaked greenhouse gas methane, spilling of drilling fluids, and improper waste disposal. To move away from these effects, well-plugging is possible, but the cost of doing this at the state level is around $30,000 per well. 

The DEP report cited that these poor results will force it to "further develop and refine its techniques for deterring violations and encouraging compliance with relevant statutory and regulatory provisions."  The agency is seeking additional resources to support this effort, citing that "developing a stable funding source to fund these efforts will be critical to successfully altering the current course of widespread non-compliance in the conventional oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania."

NRC Refuses PG&E's Request to Extend Diablo Canyon License Past 2024 & 2025 1/25/2023

PG&E will re-do its 2009 application to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant for 20 years. They had asked the NRC for a delay in the renewal application in 2011, a suspension in 2016, and then wrote to the NRC in 2018 that they'd like to withdraw their initial 2009 application because the "continued baseload operation of the two reactors would not be needed to meet California’s projected energy demands."

Things have changed, and Diablo Canyon, which produces 9% of California's electricity, was seen as a vital power supply for the state by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022. PG&E decided to re-open their application for an extension again on October 31, 2022, and a $1.1 billion grant offered by the U.S. Department of Energy in November followed.

This week, the NRC responded to PG&E's letter to extend the life of their twin nuclear reactors between Los Angeles and San Francisco past 2024 and 2025 to say that they do not agree with an extension and believe that "resuming this review would not be consistent with ... the Principles of Good Regulation." It appears that the regulation is not interested in keeping the twin reactors alive unless a thorough investigation has been completed on the safety of the nuclear power plant, which can take years. The plant is backed by the state and federal government, so it may be the case that the NRC is able to complete a review and approve the application before the nuclear reactor is offline.

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