Biden-Harris Administration Announces $33 Million Infrastructure Investment to Address Legacy Pollution

Interior Department

The Department of the Interior today announced a $33 million investment through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to put people to work plugging, remediating and reclaiming orphaned oil and gas wells in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and on other public lands. Four bureaus within the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture will address 277 high-priority polluting wells that pose threats to human health and safety, the climate and wildlife.

“I have seen firsthand how the orphaned oil and gas wells left behind by extractive industries lead to hazardous pollution, water contamination, and safety hazards for our communities,” said Secretary of the Interior 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:

StateLocation# of wells
CaliforniaChannel Islands National Park2
Bakersfield Field Office BLM Lands 8
KentuckyDaniel Boone National Forest24
LouisianaAtchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge9
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge6
Darbonne National Wildlife Refuge 68
Jean Lafitte National Historic Park10
Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge11
Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge 59
OhioCuyahoga Valley National Park3
OklahomaDeep Fork National Wildlife Refuge24
PennsylvaniaAllegheny National Forest 18
TexasAngelina National Forest 9
Big Thicket National Preserve 7
Guadalupe Mountains National Park2
Sabine National Forest2
UtahGlen Canyon National Recreation Area*
Moab Field Office BLM Lands14
West VirginiaGauley 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.

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