Public Resources Code – PRC § 3237
(a)(1) The supervisor or district deputy may order the plugging and abandonment of a well or the decommissioning of a production facility that has been deserted whether or not any damage is occurring or threatened by reason of that deserted well or production facility. The supervisor or district deputy shall determine from credible evidence whether a well or production facility is deserted.
(2) For purposes of paragraph (1), “credible evidence” includes, but is not limited to, the operational history of the well or production facility, the response or lack of response of the operator to inquiries and requests from the supervisor or district deputy, the extent of compliance by the operator with the requirements of this chapter, and other actions of the operator with regard to the well or production facility.
(3) A rebuttable presumption of desertion arises in any of the following situations:
(A) If a well has not been completed to production or injection and drilling machinery have been removed from the well site for at least six months.
(B) If a well’s production facilities or injection equipment has been removed from the well site for at least two years.
(C) If an operator has failed to comply with an order of the supervisor within the time provided by the order or has failed to challenge the order on a timely basis.
(D) If an operator fails to designate an agent as required by Section 3200 .
(E) If a person who is to acquire a well or production facility that is subject to a purchase, transfer, assignment, conveyance, exchange, or other disposition fails to comply with Section 3202 .
(F) If an operator has failed to maintain the access road to a well or production facility site passable to oilfield and emergency vehicles.
(4) The operator may rebut the presumptions of desertion set forth in paragraph (3) by demonstrating with credible evidence compliance with this division and that the well or production facility has the potential for commercial production, including specific and detailed plans for future operations, and by providing a reasonable timetable for putting those plans into effect. The operator may rebut the presumption set forth in subparagraph (F) of paragraph (3) by repairing the access road.
(b) An order to plug and abandon a deserted well or to decommission a production facility may be appealed to the director pursuant to the procedures specified in Article 6 (commencing with Section 3350 ).
(c)(1) The current operator, as determined by the records of the supervisor, of a deserted well that produced oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons or was used for injection is responsible for the proper plugging and abandonment of the well or the decommissioning of deserted production facilities. If the supervisor determines that the current operator does not have the financial resources to fully cover the cost of plugging and abandoning the well or the decommissioning of deserted production facilities, the immediately preceding operator shall be responsible for the cost of plugging and abandoning the well or the decommissioning of deserted production facilities.
(2) The supervisor may continue to look seriatim to previous operators until an operator is found that the supervisor determines has the financial resources to cover the cost of plugging and abandoning the well or decommissioning deserted production facilities. However, the supervisor may not hold an operator responsible that made a valid transfer of ownership of the well prior to January 1, 1996.
(3) For purposes of this subdivision, “operator” includes a mineral interest owner who shall be held jointly liable for the well and attendant production facilities if the mineral interest owner has or had leased or otherwise conveyed the working interest in the well to another person, if in the lease or other conveyance, the mineral interest owner retained a right to control the well operations that exceeds the scope of an interest customarily reserved in a lease or other conveyance in the event of a default.
(4) No prior operator is liable for any of the costs of plugging and abandoning a well or decommissioning deserted production facilities by a subsequent operator if those costs are necessitated by the subsequent operator’s illegal operation of a well or production facility.
(5) If the supervisor is unable to determine that an operator who acquired ownership of a well after January 1, 1996, has the financial resources to fully cover the costs of plugging and abandonment of the well or decommissioning deserted production facilities, the supervisor may undertake plugging and abandonment of the well or decommissioning deserted production facilities pursuant to Article 4.2 (commencing with Section 3250 ).
(d)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the supervisor or district deputy, at his or her sole discretion, may determine that a well that has been idle for 25 years or more and that fails to meet either of the following conditions is conclusive evidence of desertion, and may order the well abandoned:
(A) The operator is operating in compliance with a valid idle well management plan that is on file with the supervisor pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3206 or is covered by an indemnity bond provided under Section 3204, subdivision (a) of Section 3205 , or subdivision (a) of Section 3205.2 .
(B) The well meets the relevant testing standards for idle wells required under the regulations implementing this chapter.
(2) The supervisor or district deputy shall provide the operator a 90-day notice of warning once a determination has been reached pursuant to this subdivision that a well has been deserted. An operator may rebut the determination, made pursuant to paragraph (1), of the supervisor or district deputy by demonstrating compliance with subparagraphs (A) and (B) of paragraph (1).
(3) An order to plug and abandon a deserted well under this section due to the supervisor’s or district deputy’s determination of an operator’s noncompliance with either subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) may be appealed to the director pursuant to the procedures specified in Article 6 (commencing with Section 3350 ).