Biden-Harris Administration Invests $660 Million for States to Plug Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

The Biden-Harris Administration just invested about $660 million in grant funding to clean up legacy pollution through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. This will ultimately clean up hazardous sites will create good-paying jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, reduce harmful methane leaks and reduce environmental and public health risks.

According to the U.S. Department of Interior, millions of Americans live within a mile of an orphaned oil and gas well. Orphaned wells are polluting backyards, recreation areas, farmland, and public spaces in urban, rural and suburban areas. Methane leaking from many of these unplugged wells is a serious safety hazard and is a significant cause of climate change.

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. The $660 million being announced today comes from the $2 billion in formula grants to be provided to states over the coming years.

Plugging orphaned wells advances the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Methane 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 program is also part of the Justice40 Initiative, which is advancing environmental justice by ensuring that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments reach disadvantaged communities that are marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment.

The grant application guidance released today is a product of robust engagement with state partners and public stakeholders and reflects feedback provided on draft guidance that was released on January 30. The guidance encourages states to use project labor agreements and a unionized project workforce for the plugging, remediation and reclamation of wells, and requires states to:

Measure methane emissions from orphaned wells plugged with formula grants.
Screen for groundwater and surface water impacts caused by orphaned wells.
Factor into their prioritization methods polluting wells nearby communities of color, low-income communities, and Tribal and Indigenous communities.

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