Biden Administration Invests $50.5 Million to Address Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells, Boosting Jobs and Reducing Climate Impact

Orphaned oil and gas wellsSubmitted Image

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a major move to combat climate change, improve public health, and stimulate economic growth, the Department of the Interior recently announced a $50.5 million investment to address the issue of orphaned oil and gas wells on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and waters.

Five bureaus within the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture will work together to remediate 123 high-priority polluting wells. These wells pose significant threats to human health and safety, wildlife, and the climate.

The funding is part of an overall $4.7 billion investment from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which aims to address orphaned oil and gas wells across the nation. This initiative will not only create good-paying union jobs and catalyze economic growth but also improve public health and safety and reduce harmful methane leaks.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s more than 25 times as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, poses a serious safety hazard and is a significant driver of climate change. Many of these unplugged wells are sources of methane pollution, contributing to the escalating global warming crisis.

“Toxic orphaned wells pose a significant threat to American communities and our environment,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I’ve seen firsthand how orphaned oil and gas wells left behind by extractive industries lead to hazardous pollution, water contamination, and safety hazards.”

The $50.5 million investment is part of a total of $250 million provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clean up orphaned well sites on federal public lands. This is in addition to $4.3 billion allocated to plug orphaned wells on state and private lands. To date, approximately $150 million has been allocated to address orphaned wells on federal lands, which is estimated to fund the plugging of nearly 600 orphaned wells on federal lands and waters.

The investment will be distributed across 19 states, covering a diverse array of projects, including plugging, reclamation, methane measurement, and infrastructure removal at various national parks, wildlife refuges, and national forests as well as offshore oilfield locations.

Significantly, 70 percent of the selected projects will benefit communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. This reflects the Biden Administration’s commitment to environmental justice, advancing the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims for 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to flow to disadvantaged communities.

The announcement also highlighted that nearly $645 million in initial and formula grants have already been awarded to states over the past two years to address orphaned oil and gas wells on state and private lands.

This initiative represents a significant stride in the Biden Administration’s efforts to tackle climate change, stimulate economic growth, and improve public health. By addressing the legacy of orphaned oil and gas wells, the government is not only reducing harmful methane emissions but also creating jobs and restoring landscapes. This holistic approach embodies the administration’s vision for a cleaner, safer, and more equitable future.

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