Biden-Harris Administration to invest $33Million on Infrastructure to Address Legacy Pollution

The Department of the Interior announced today that it will invest $33 million under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to put people to work plugging, remediating, and reclaiming orphaned oil and gas wells in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands.

277 high-priority polluting wells that threaten human health and safety, the climate, and wildlife will be addressed by four bureaus within the Interior and Agriculture departments.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand how extractive industries’ abandoned oil and gas wells cause dangerous pollution, water contamination, and safety problems for our people,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

“Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are making the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history and taking an all-of-government approach to addressing the environmental impacts from these legacy developments while creating good paying jobs in states across the country.”

“Millions of Americans live within a mile of hundreds of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells. These wells jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting harmful pollutants including methane, and harming wildlife,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Laura Daniel-Davis. “We are grateful that investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will enable the federal government to do our part to address this legacy pollution.”

Today’s allocation is part of a total of $250 million provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for cleaning up orphaned wells and well sites on federal public lands, national parks, national wildlife refuges and national forests. Funding will be distributed to four agencies for work in California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. The agencies are expected to immediately begin the process to acquire plugging and reclamation services through contracts and grants.

Agencies receiving funding will measure methane emissions before and after plugging using a methane measurement protocol developed by the multi-agency Technical Working Group. The Department of the Interior is also working on developing a database to collect information as wells are plugged and to capture these measurements for future Congressional reporting. The agencies have also prioritized wells that impact disadvantaged communities in keeping with the Administration’s Justice40 initiative to deliver at least 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.

See below for a list of funded projects slated for this year:

State Location # of wells
California Channel Islands National Park 2
Bakersfield Field Office BLM Lands 8
Kentucky Daniel Boone National Forest 24
Louisiana Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge 9
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge 6
Darbonne National Wildlife Refuge 68
Jean Lafitte National Historic Park 10
Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge 11
Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge 59
Ohio Cuyahoga Valley National Park 3
Oklahoma Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge 24
Pennsylvania Allegheny National Forest 18
Texas Angelina National Forest 9
Big Thicket National Preserve 7
Guadalupe Mountains National Park 2
Sabine National Forest 2
Utah Glen Canyon National Recreation Area *
Moab Field Office BLM Lands 14
West Virginia Gauley River National Recreation Area 1

*Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is funded for an inventory and assessment of the wells present in the park.

This allocation comes on the heels of the Interior Department’s announcement of $775 million in grant funding to states made earlier this year to address orphaned oil and gas wells on public and private lands in FY22; an investment that will create jobs plugging wells, and drive future job growth through new economic development opportunities on rehabilitated sites.