Ky. receives $25 million to reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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The Department of the Interior announced Wednesday the awarding of $36.9 million in the first phase of formula grant funding through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri to clean up legacy pollution.  

Kentucky is receiving a $25 million award to plug and reclaim approximately 550 orphaned oil and gas wells. Mississippi will use its $6.8 million award to continue efforts identifying, characterizing and prioritizing previously undocumented orphaned wells and conduct plugging, remediation and restoration work on approximately 400 orphaned well sites. Missouri is receiving $5.1 million to plug and reclaim approximately 238 orphaned wells. 

As part of the awards, the three states will 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. 

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“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 Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “I’ve seen many of these hazardous sites firsthand that are actively leaking oil and releasing methane gas that need to be urgently addressed. With this historic funding, the states of Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri 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 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 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 to Kentucky and $5 million to Mississippi for these states to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells. This latest $37 million in formula grant funding will help these three states continue the momentum started in 2022.