Nearly $55 Million to Clean Up Legacy Oil & Gas Pollution in North Dakota & West Virginia

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Historic funding to plug orphaned oil and gas wells will address environmental and safety hazards, create good-paying jobs in communities across both states

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior today awarded $54.2 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for North Dakota and West Virginia to clean up legacy pollution. North Dakota will use its $25 million to plug approximately 46 orphaned oil and gas wells, reclaim 116 well sites and remediate over 270 contaminated sites. West Virginia is receiving a $29.2 million award, which will be used to plug approximately 200 orphaned oil and gas wells. These investments to address hazardous sites will help create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, help protect public health and the environment from harmful methane leaks, and advance environmental justice.

Today’s awards are part of an overall $660 million in formula grant funding being released on a rolling basis. As part of these awards, the two states will detect and measure methane emissions from orphaned oil and gas wells, screen for groundwater and surface water impacts, and seek to prioritize cleaning up wells near overburdened and disadvantaged communities. These efforts advance the President’s Justice40 Initiative that sets a goal to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that have been marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is creating jobs and revitalizing local economies while cleaning up harmful legacy pollution sites throughout the country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I’ve seen firsthand the urgent need to address these hazardous sites, many of which are actively leaking oil and releasing methane gas. With this historic funding, the states of North Dakota and West Virginia will continue the progress made plugging wells over the last year. These investments are good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers.”

Orphaned oil and gas wells are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and community spaces across the country. Many of these wells pose serious health and safety threats to the air we breathe and water we drink by contaminating surface and groundwater, releasing toxic air pollutants, and leaking methane – a “super pollutant” that is a significant cause of climate change and many times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Plugging orphaned wells supports broader Biden-Harris administration efforts under the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.

Through the President’s 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. In August 2022, the Department announced $560 million in initial grant funding to 24 states, including $25 million each to North Dakota and West Virginia for these states to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells. As demonstrated in a StoryMap recently released by the Department, plugging is underway across the country, and 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. Nationwide, investments through the Department’s new program are estimated to have supported over 7,200 jobs and contributed more than $900 million over the last two fiscal years.

With initial grant funding, to date, North Dakota has plugged 73 wells and West Virginia has plugged 123 wells. These states have also conducted extensive surface remediation and restoration of orphaned well sites with this funding. Today’s announcement of nearly $55 million in formula grant funding will help these states continue the momentum started in 2022.

In addition to the $775 million available through initial grants and $2 billion available through multiple phases of formula grants, states are also eligible for $1.5 billion in performance grants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Final state matching grant guidance, which is one of two categories of performance grant is forthcoming.

Press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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