Funding for plugging and remediation of orphan wells progresses in Senate
The bipartisan infrastructure bill currently being debated in Washington includes a new $ 4.7 billion program to address a significant environmental legacy of the fossil fuel industry – the plugging and remediation of oil and gas wells. orphan gas.
Since orphan wells have no owner, much of the responsibility for cleanup lies with the public. Almost 60,000 of these wells have been documented by state and federal agencies, but there are probably several hundred thousand more scattered across more than two dozen states.
Unless properly plugged, oil and gas wells that are no longer in use pose major environmental risks. They can contaminate groundwater and surface water resources. They emit methane – a powerful greenhouse gas over 80 times more potent in contributing to short-term warming than carbon dioxide. They can also release air pollutants that are dangerous to human health.
And they can continue to pollute for generations to come. But despite the threat they pose to the environment, public health and property values, funding for programs to plug and rehabilitate orphaned wells has been insufficient for the scale of the task; At the current rate, it would take hundreds of years to complete the current backlog of work in some states.
As Congress began funding large-scale economic stimulus measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, EDF recognized the unique opportunity to create jobs, reduce the impacts on the climate and the local environment and protect public health by plugging and cleaning up orphan wells.
We have organized and worked with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure bipartite legislation led by Meaning. Ben Ray Luján from New Mexico and Kevin Cramer from North Dakota Called the REGROW law which would plug all documented orphan wells in the country was included in the bipartite infrastructure package. The bill would also pay a down payment on the cleanup for the wider population of inappropriately abandoned wells.
This broad coalition includes Interstate Oil and Gas Pact Commission, a bipartite group a dozen governors, National Wildlife Federation, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Clean Air Council, Evangelical Environmental Network, Grand Canyon Trust, Moms Clean Air Force, National Audubon Society, New Mexico Wild, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and others.
The REGROW law now has eight bipartite Senate sponsors, an accompanying bill in the House, and is included in the current infrastructure package debated in the Senate this week. In addition to funding the plugging and remediation of all documented orphan wells in the United States, the bill calls for improved policies to reduce the future burden of orphan wells through improved plugging rules, financial guarantees of private financing to plug wells and reforms to manage inactive wells and transfer wells. rules. The legislation also funds research to find and prioritize undocumented wells to plug.
The benefits of this work are clear: creating or maintaining tens of thousands of jobs in petroleum services across the country, reducing the climate and toxic emissions, protecting ground and surface water, and protecting human health and safety. safety of people living nearby. to these wells.
Environmental groups, state governments, industry and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are coming together to seize this unique opportunity to plug and repair old oil and gas wells across the country and clean up the legacy of the pass. With respect to currently active wells, EDF looks forward to working with state and federal agencies on comprehensive oil and gas reforms to ensure that these wells are quickly and properly plugged at the end of their productive life.