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States receiving billions of dollars to clean up abandoned wells

The federal government is throwing billions into cleaning up former fossil fuel wells across the country.
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 11:54 AM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A cleanup could be coming to a well near you. Millions of Americans live near abandoned fossil fuel wells across the country. The federal government is throwing billions of dollars at the problem.

“There’s no reason why they should have to suffer those consequences,” said Adam Peltz from the Environmental Defense Fund.

Hundreds of thousands of so-called orphan oil and gas wells are hurting the environment in half of U.S. states. Previous operators did not clean them up properly, or just walked away from them after going bankrupt. The Biden administration recently announced just over $1 billion available to states to start the cleanup, part of a $4.7 billion project. Peltz said this initial tranche of funding is a great start to address a massive issue.

“So many wells were orphaned over the past 150 years that it’s a legacy that we just have to deal with,” said Peltz.

The wells release unhealthy emissions that seep into the air or local groundwater, wreaking havoc on the surrounding environment. Peltz said the federal money coming from the bipartisan infrastructure law will put people to work on making these areas safe again.

“Tens of thousands of oilfield service workers will be out over the next several years plugging and remediating these wells,” said Peltz.

This initiative is essential for Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Arizona stands to receive more than $26 million in this first round to clean up hundreds of their wells.

“And for Arizona all it does is create more opportunities not just for economic development but enhances public health,” said Grijalva.

Grijalva said they are evaluating what it will take to clean up these wells and did not offer a timeline for finishing the job. He said it depends on each well. When Arizona receives the funding, Grijalva expects the state to prioritize the most harmful wells first to relieve these communities.

“That is an investment that will pay dividends once we are able to…dealing with a clean, usable environment,” said Grijalva.

Grijalva also expects an announcement to come soon regarding abandoned mines.

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