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DOI awards additional $35M to California to plug orphaned oil and gas wells

The US Department of the Interior is awarding $35.2 million to continue reclaiming and restoring orphaned oil and gas wells in California. With this new funding, the state of California expects to plug and remediate 206 high-risk orphaned oil and gas wells and decommission 47 attendant production facilities with approximately 70,000 feet of associated pipelines.

Interior Secretary Haaland also announced new matching grant guidance for states to access $30 million each in additional funding for orphaned well clean up.

Orphaned oil and gas wells can pose serious health and safety threats by contaminating surface and groundwater, releasing toxic air pollutants, and leaking methane.

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department is delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history, including $4.7 billion to plug orphaned wells. This includes grants to states in three categories: initial grants, formula grants, and performance grants.

Since August 2022, the Department has awarded $565 million in initial grant funding to 25 states—including $25 million to California—to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells nationwide. With initial grant funding, to date, California’s Geologic Energy Management Division has plugged 156 wells and conducted surface restoration of well sites.

The award for California is part of an overall $660 million in phase one formula grant funding being released on a rolling basis. As part of the award, California will detect and measure methane emissions from orphaned oil and gas wells, screen for groundwater and surface water impacts, and prioritize cleaning up wells near overburdened and disadvantaged communities. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides $1.5 billion for state performance grants, which fall into two sub-categories: matching grants and regulatory improvement grants. Eligible states may receive a matching grant from the Department equal to what the state commits to spend each fiscal year if that amount is greater than the average spent by the state between 2010 and 2019.

By incentivizing states to increase their own spending on plugging and reclaiming orphaned wells, these grants will help address even more of the wells littered across the country.

Since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states have plugged more than 7,700 orphaned wells and reduced approximately 11,530 metric tons of potential methane emissions.

In addition to providing funding to states, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $250 million to clean up well sites in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands, nearly $150 million of which has been allocated over the past three years. This funding for states and federal land managers is in addition to the close to $40 million awarded to Tribal communities in September 2023.  



There are more than 100,000 of these in the state of Texas between Texas and California we have enough empty wells to store all the output from fossil fuel power plants this is the cleanest and quickest way we can reduce carbon emissions into our atmosphere.

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