The Department of the Interior Wednesday announced a $33 million investment through President Joe 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.
Among them are two wells at Channel Islands National Park, off the coast of Santa Barbara.
Wednesday’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.
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% of the benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.
“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 Deb Haaland, secretary of the Interior.
“These wells jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting harmful pollutants including methane and harming wildlife,” said Laura Daniel-Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals.”