Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland traveled to Houston to highlight investments being made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to put people to work to plug, reclaim and remediate orphaned oil and gas wells. 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.
The visit is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Investing in America tour, where President Biden and members of his Cabinet are fanning out across the country to hear directly from communities on the opportunities that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act are creating.
Secretary Haaland hosted a roundtable with labor leaders, environmental justice advocates, and federal, state and local officials to discuss progress on implementation of the Law. She also visited two sites in the Houston area where the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is funding the plugging of orphaned wells and received a briefing from the Railroad Commission of Texas on their work. She was joined by Congresswomen Sylvia Garcia, Lizzie Fletcher and Sheila Jackson Lee.
Orphaned oil and gas wells are polluting 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 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history, including through a $4.7 billion investment to plug orphaned wells.
Texas has been allocated $25 million in initial grant funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address orphaned oil and gas wells on state and private land. Under draft guidance released in January, Texas will be eligible to apply for a formula grant of up to $82.5 million later this year. The comment period for draft guidance closed on March 24 and the Department is currently reviewing feedback it received.
Additionally, through a $33 million investment to address orphaned wells on federal lands, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are working to remediate 20 additional high-priority well sites in Angelina National Forest, Big Thicket National Preserve, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Sabine National Forest in the state.
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.