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Department of Interior awards initial $560M to 24 states to plug, cap and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells

The Department of the Interiorawarded an initial $560 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to 24 states to begin work to plug, cap and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells. Eligible states have indicated that there are more than 10,000 high-priority well sites across the country ready for immediate remediation efforts, with more lined up for future action.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $4.7-billion to plug orphaned wells. These legacy pollution sites are environmental hazards and jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, emitting noxious gases and methane, littering the landscape with rusted and dangerous equipment, and harming wildlife.

Fifteen states will utilize Initial Grant funding to set up methane measuring capacity while 6 states—including California, Mississippi and West Virginia—have committed to measuring methane before and immediately after remediation. Twelve states—including Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio—have prioritized capping wells in disadvantaged communities.

Several states—including Arizona, Louisiana and Montana—will prioritize job creation and preference to small businesses through their contracting process.

As of 2021, states have identified more than 129,000 orphaned wells on state and private land, though this number will grow as Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding becomes available for further records research, more field equipment, improved well location techniques, and increased site inspections and data collection nationwide.

The $560 million is part of an overall $1.15 billion in Phase One funding announced in January by the Department for states to plug and remediate orphaned wells. States will receive additional formula funding dollars in the coming months. In addition, an initial $33 million was recently allocated to plug 277 wells on federal public lands. The Tribal orphaned well grant program is being informed by ongoing Tribal consultations and listening sessions.

Of states eligible for funding, 22 have been allocated $25 million each in Initial State Grants. Arkansas and Mississippi will receive $5 million each to support methane measurement and begin plugging wells.

The list below reflects the number of wells identified for plugging and remediation with Initial Grant Funding by each eligible state. The number of wells varies based on the remoteness, well depth, site conditions and previous activity at the well site as well as other state considerations, such as the number of existing staff and whether the state has preexisting well plugging contracts.

State # of wells
Alaska 12-18
Arizona 246
Arkansas 227
California 171
Colorado 710
Florida 36-48
Illinois 600-800
Indiana 400
Kansas 2,352
Kentucky 1,000-1,200
Louisiana 250 – 900
Michigan 447
Mississippi *
Montana 254
Nebraska 225
New Mexico 200
New York 167
North Dakota 120
Ohio 245
Oklahoma 1,196
Pennsylvania 50
Texas 800
West Virginia 160
Wyoming **
* Mississippi will create a comprehensive inventory of orphaned wells statewide, purchase equipment needed to perform field inspections, and develop contracts for methane measurement, remediation of contaminated media, and well plugging.

** Wyoming plans to plug, remediate and reclaim as many documented orphaned wells as possible, to complete remediation or reclamation actions where such work was not completed after plugging, and to locate and characterize undocumented orphaned wells. Wyoming estimates that there could be up to 300 jobs created or saved utilizing this program.


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