Land Reclamation

The primary goal of reclamation on oil and gas lands is to restore site stability and ecosystem functions, returning disturbed lands to their original use or use prior to disturbance, such as crop production or wildlife habitat. The benchmark for successful reclamation typically is the establishment of a native plant community that is self-sustaining and meets standards for density and forage production, and the re-contouring of all disturbed surface areas to match or blend with the original landform.

In modern, environmentally friendly field developments, an operator’s permit to drill usually includes a limit on the total surface area that can be disturbed at one time. Because of this restriction, interim reclamation is conducted during the construction, drilling, and well production phases of oil and gas development to ensure that surface disturbance is within the limits established in the drilling permit. During interim reclamation, land on a well site that is not being used for production but has been disturbed should be undergoing the reclamation process through recontouring, topsoil replacement, and revegetation.

Final reclamation is also required after a well is depleted or if it proves to be dry. The well must be plugged, and the well site and other areas disturbed by road or pipeline construction must be reclaimed and plant communities must be restored. The timeline for reclamation after a well is plugged varies by state.

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