Abandoned Wells and Mines

Anita Prizio, representative of Allegheny County Council and chair of the council’s Committee on Sustainability and Green Initiatives, chaired two extremely valuable informational sessions March 31 and April 14, 2022, on abandoned oil and gas wells and abandoned coal mines in Allegheny County.

These sessions included substantial testimony from two prominent representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): Kurt Klapkowski,Acting Deputy Secretary from the Office of Oil and Gas Management, and Patrick Webb, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation.

Both DEP speakers were asked to address the following questions:

  • What is the precise location of the abandoned wells and mines in Allegheny County, and on which of our communities do they have impact?
  • What is the process through which negative impacts of such abandoned wells and mines would be halted?
  • What is the timeline for resolving this problem?
  • What is the anticipated cost of dealing with the abandoned wells and mines?
  • What funds are allocated for this purpose, and what is the process through which these funds will be utilized?
  • Are there jobs that will be created to accomplish this task, and will residents of Allegheny County have an opportunity to apply for such jobs?
  • What mechanisms exist (or can be developed) to provide accountability and transparency, helping to ensure that the job is done right?

Also giving testimony were: Kelsey Krepps from the Sierra Club, Ted Boettner and Eric Dixon from the Ohio River Valley Institute, Joe Uehlein from the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Patricia DeMarco a prominent environmentalist who was able to testify as Vice President of Forest Hills Borough Council.

The other speakers added crucial elements to the sessions. Kelsey Krepps, Ted Boettner, and Eric Dixon added data that vividly clarified, deepened, and expanded upon the environmental realities related to abandoned wells and mines, also addressing the need for additional funding, the need for transparency and accountability, as well as the need for the involvement of labor in the solutions to the problems. Patricia DeMarco brought an essential attention to detail and human faces in her account of the impact of abandoned mines on her own community. And Joe Uehlein provided a larger framework regarding the need for working people and organized labor to be intimately involved in a "just transition" to an environmentally sustainable economy, making reference to the conceptualization of a Green New Deal.

Opening Remarks by Anita Prizio

"Good afternoon, everyone. Thank-you all for joining the Committee of Sustainability and Green Initiatives this afternoon.

Today we are discussing the identification and plugging of abandoned oil and gas wells in Allegheny County. This informational session stems from the Bi-Partisan Federal Infrastructure Law which allows states to use grant funding for plugging wells, remediating, and reclaiming lands impacted by oil and gas development activities and removinginfrastructure hazardsassociated with the wells.

PA DEP estimates that PA could be eligible for as much as $395 million over the next decade. It is my understanding we have 30-40 documented abandoned wells in Allegheny County. This session is the first in a series of informational sessions which will address not only the environmental impacts from legacy developments, but how these funds can revitalize local economies and support union jobs. Orphaned oil and gas wells jeopardize public health and safety of our communities, as well as wildlife by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting noxious gases including millions of tons of methane. Methane is one of the primary causes of the global warming that is threatening our planet.

In addition to addressing this legacy pollution, these investments create immediate jobs and build the foundation for additional jobs in the future once sites are cleaned up and can support new economic development opportunities. The link between preserving a livable environment and providing jobs and good quality of life for all of our people is the key concept of what has been called the Green New Deal.

Today we have Kurt Klapkowski (Bureau Director in PA DEP’s Oil & Gas Office), Ted Boettner (Ohio Valley River Institute), and Kelsey Krepps (Sierra Club)."


Kurt Klapkowski
Acting Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas Management. Served as the Director of the Bureau of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management from March 2012 until February 2022. Prior to joining the Office of Oil and Gas Management, he worked with the Department’s Bureau of Regulatory Counsel for more than 18 years.

Patrick Webb
Professional Engineer. Assistant Director, Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation for Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Additional Speakers

Eric Dixon – Senior Researcher, Ohio River Valley Institute. Focuses on economic and environmental policy in Appalachia and beyond. Prior to joining Ohio River Valley Institute, Eric was an organizer and policy advocate at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, where he worked on issues such as black lung and damage from abandoned coal mines.

Joe Uehlein – Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Voices for a Sustainable Future. Joe is the former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department and former director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns. In the early 1970’s he worked in an aluminum mill in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of the United Steelworkers of America, and then on heavy and highway construction projects in Central Pennsylvania. He is a musician, and a member of the American Federation of Musicians.

Kelsey Krepps – Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club. Works to challenge gas pipelines and petrochemical infrastructure in Pennsylvania. Her past experience includes clean air, clean water, and petrochemical work at PennFuture. Kelsey holds a double Masters from Appalachian State University in Renewable Technology and Appalachian Studies. She’s the Forest Service.

Patricia M. DeMarco – is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. with a doctorate in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. She has spent a thirty-year career in energy and environmental policy in both private and public sector positions and is author of Pathways to Our Sustainable Future – A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh. She has served on Forest Hills Borough Council since 2016 and is currently its Vice President.

Ted Boettner – Senior Researcher, Ohio River Valley Institute. Focuses on pathways that bring sustainable economic development and shared prosperity to the region through research and analysis and has over 15 years of public policy experience. Prior to joining Ohio River Valley Institute, Ted was the founding executive director of the WV Center on Budget and Policy.