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Abandoned wells and setback rules in Texas

After a gas or oil company drills a well in Texas, some of those wells decrease in production to the point they aren’t profitable. Some of these wells can be repurposed to enhance oil recovery in other wells nearby, but others may be abandoned and plugged by the oil or gas company. According to the Texas Railroad Commission, there are over 6,200 abandoned oil and gas wells in Texas.

Denton setback rule

City Council members in the city of Denton, Texas have proposed a new rule surrounding plugged gas wells and building near them. They are expected to revisit a setback rule where no development should occur within 20 feet around a plugged gas well. A setback is a municipal code provision that proscribes how far away from a plugged well building can occur.

Easements and private property with gas wells

It is common in Texas that when an individual buys land, easements exist where a well or pipeline is in the case the well needs maintenance. There are some environmental concerns that gas wells may leak into the water supply and that buying property on top of a gas well is unsafe. These wells are sometimes abandoned when they are no longer producing gas or oil. Some are proponents of easements because they notify the public of where the wells are located so as to make an informed decision when purchasing land. If the public is aware of the gas well easement, they can make the choice whether to buy the property.

Regulation of surface activities & the wells

There is no state-wide setback rule, the regulation of surface activities are largely left up to the municipalities. Texas Local Code does proscribe that a well may not be drilled in the thickly settled part of a municipality or within 200 feet of a private residence, but doesn’t mention what is prohibited regarding selling property with an abandoned well. Regulation of these wells is given to the Texas Railroad Commission. Under the Texas Natural Resources Code, the commission (the Texas Railroad Commission) has broad discretion in administering the natural resources code and may adopt any rule or order that it finds necessary to effectuate the provisions of the code.

If you have questions about oil, gas, and mineral law in Texas, there are attorneys experienced in these types of cases who can help you explore the convoluted laws surrounding oil and gas wells on residential or commercial property.