Department of Interior allocates $63.8 million to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells on public lands

“Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are investing in the nation’s future by addressing legacy pollution on public lands."

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Image Credit: LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Department of the Interior announced it will allocate $63.8 million to plug and clean up orphaned oil and gas wells that are located in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and on other public lands and waters. The allocation of funds to clean up orphaned wells, which were abandoned by the oil and gas industry, is part of an overall $4.7 billion investment in part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Decades of drilling have left behind thousands of non-producing wells that now threaten the health and well-being of our communities, our lands, and our waters,” Secretary Deb Haaland said. “This funding will put Americans to work in good-paying jobs, while also fueling collaboration across a broad coalition of stakeholders and engaging communities to work toward sustainable stewardship of the nation’s treasured lands and waters.”

Orphaned wells are toxic to the environment and threaten the health of nearby communities, Sierra Club said. They emit “large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas more than 80 times as potent at driving the climate crisis as carbon dioxide,” according to a press release.

“These funds will facilitate the critical work of cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells that are poisoning communities and destabilizing our climate,” Mahyar Sorour, director of Beyond Fossil Fuels Policy at Sierra Club said. “Addressing these existing wells is an important first step, but unless it’s paired with bonding reform that requires oil and gas companies to cover these costs up front, the industry will continue to leave behind toxic wells on our public lands and expect taxpayers to cover the cost of cleaning them up.”

According to the Department of the Interior, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $4.7 billion investment to plug orphaned wells is divided into three programs:

  • $4.3 billion to be used to plug orphaned wells on state and private lands;  
  • $250 million to cap orphaned wells on public lands, including in national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges; and
  • $150 million to cap orphaned wells on Tribal lands.  

“Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are investing in the nation’s future by addressing legacy pollution on public lands,” Secretary Haaland said.

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Ashley is an editor, social media content manager and writer at NationofChange. Before joining NoC, she was a features reporter at The Daily Breeze – a local newspaper in Southern California – writing a variety of stories on current topics including politics, the economy, human rights, the environment and the arts. Ashley is a transplant from the East Coast calling Los Angeles home.

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