Interior Dept. Drafts $500M Grants for Orphaned Oil/Gas Wells

Interior Department

The Department of the Interior today released draft guidance to states on how to apply for $500 million in formula grant funding available under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to create jobs cleaning up polluted and unsafe orphaned oil and gas wells across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $2 billion for state formula grants, part of a total $4.7 billion to address orphaned wells across the country. An initial $560 million in grant funding was allocated to states in August 2022.

“The Department of the Interior is moving quickly to implement this historic investment in tackling legacy pollution, provided through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These investments are good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As we prepare to issue another round of grants to help states accomplish this vital work, we are eager to hear from diverse voices on this draft guidance.”

Orphaned oil and gas wells pollute backyards, recreation areas, and community spaces across the country. Methane leaking from many of these unplugged wells is a serious safety hazard and is a significant cause of climate change, being more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. The historic investments to clean up these hazardous sites will create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce harmful methane leaks.

Plugging orphaned wells will help advance the goals of the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, as well as the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which focuses on spurring economic revitalization in hard-hit energy communities.

The draft released today invites public comment on instructions to states on how to apply for formula orphaned well grants, as well as guidance on how applicants can ensure that activities funded under the program are putting people to work, protecting the environment, investing in disadvantaged communities consistent with the President’s Justice 40 Initiative, and safeguarding taxpayer money in a transparent and responsible manner.

Grant funding may be used to measure and track methane emissions; to plug, remediate and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells; and to remediate soil and restore native species habitat that has been degraded due to the presence of orphaned wells. States may apply for grants up to their eligible amount.

In addition to providing historic funding to states, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $250 million to clean up well sites in national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands, $33 million of which was allocated last year. Guidance, informed by Tribal consultations and listening sessions, has also been shared with Tribes on how to apply for the first $50 million in funding to address orphaned wells on Tribal lands.

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