​​​​Idle Well Program

The adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" aptly applies to the Idle Wells Program in the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). Wells that are not in use long-term can deteriorate if not maintained and potentially become a public safety or environmental problem. DOGGR defines idle as those wells not being used for production, injection, or other purposes but also have not been permanently sealed. It is possible an operator could go out of business and leave idle wells for others to rectify.

Idle Well, Cat Canyon Oil Field, Santa Barbara County

Since 1977, California has permanently plugged about 1,400 wells lacking a responsible operator at a cost of $29.5 million (the money comes from an assessment on the oil and gas industry and fees collected specifically for idle wells).

DOGGR has changed the definition of idle wells from five years of no productivity to two
years of no productivity, in response to legislation. About 30,000 wells now fall into that category.   The state is revamping idle well regulations to help reduce that number.

DOGGR makes the list of idle wells statewide available annually.
2017 Idle Well List (PDF); 2017 Idle Well List (Excel download)
Previous Annual Idle Well Lists


Proposed Idle Well testing and management regulations have been released for public comment. The draft regulations are in response to Oil and Gas: Operations, Assembly Bill 2729 (2016), mandating that DOGGR review, evaluate, and update its regulations pertaining to idle wells. This update is to include idle well testing and management requirements that meet minimum requirements prescribed in the bill.

The formal public comment period on the proposed regulations ends 5 p.m. September 13, 2018. Comments can be sent by fax to (916) 324-0948, or by mail to Department of Conservation; 801 K Street, MS 24-02; Sacramento, CA 95814. Comments can also be submitted via email to DOGGRRegulations@conservation.ca.gov.

For Operators

  • The draft regulations for Idle Well testing and management are open for public comment. The 45-day public comment period closes at 5 p.m. September 13, 2018.

  • The 2017 Calendar Year Idle Well Inventory has been revised and will be updated monthly in response to reported errors. This inventory contains all wells that were idle at any point in the 2017 calendar year, per the change in definition of "idle well" as part of AB 2729. Operators who find their inventory to be in error can request a review by completing and submitting the Inventory Error form.

  • Idle well fees were due by July 23, 2018.Idle Well Fee Letters were reissued on June 22, 2018 in response to the inventory revision. Operators with an approved Idle Well Management Plan may request a revised fee letter for their records.


Idle Well Fee Letters