Feds inspected 1 high pollution-risk Alabama well

Nearly all of Alabama's 8,000 gas and oil wells are located on private land, and it is up to a small team of state regulators to inspect them.

Seven agents at the Alabama Oil and Gas Board are responsible for inspecting them, but state law doesn't spell out how often that must happen.

Butch Gregory, a petroleum engineer for the Oil and Gas Board based in Tuscaloosa, said one state agent in northern Alabama focuses on conventional wells, especially oil or natural gas. That agent visits about 650 wells at least once a year.

Two agents focus on the more common coal bed methane wells throughout northern Alabama originally designed to vent the gas from underground mines.

"There are thousands more of them and only a few agents," Gregory said. He estimated about 6,350 coal bed methane wells are permitted in Alabama.