HSE & Sustainability

Biden/Harris Administration Invests $660 Million for States To Plug Orphaned Wells

The bipartisan infrastructure law funding aims to address legacy pollution and spur economic growth nationwide.

Oil industry: Abandoned wellhead
Source: HHakim/Getty Images

Following a community roundtable discussion and site visits with Rep. Sharice Davids, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the availability of nearly $660 million in grant funding to clean up legacy pollution through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. These resources to clean up hazardous sites are designed to create good-paying jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, reduce methane leaks, and reduce environmental and public health risks to surface water and groundwater resources critical to US communities and ecosystems.

Kansas is one of 26 states that are eligible to apply for this funding. The state received $25 million in initial funding, with which the Kansas Corporation Commission plans to plug more than 2,000 abandoned wells over the next 3 years. Kansas now is eligible for another $25 million.

“Bidenomics and President Biden’s Investing in America agenda are enabling us to confront long-standing environmental injustices by making a historic investment to plug orphaned wells throughout the country,” Haaland said. “These investments are good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers. With this additional funding, states will put more people to work to clean up these toxic sites, reduce methane emissions, and safeguard our environment.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history, including through a $4.7 billion investment to plug orphaned wells. The announced $660 million comes from the $2 billion in formula grants to be provided to states over the coming years.

Plugging orphaned wells advances the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Methane Action Plan, as well as the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which focuses on spurring economic revitalization in hard-hit energy communities. The program is also part of the Justice40 Initiative, which is advancing environmental justice by ensuring that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments reach disadvantaged communities that are marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment.

The grant application guidance is a product of engagement with state partners and public stakeholders and reflects feedback provided on draft guidance that was released on 30 January. The guidance encourages states to use project labor agreements and a unionized project workforce for the plugging, remediation, and reclamation of wells and requires states to

  • Measure methane emissions from orphaned wells plugged with formula grants
  • Screen for groundwater and surface water impacts caused by orphaned wells
  • Factor into their prioritization methods polluting wells near communities of color, low-income communities, and Tribal and Indigenous communities

The funding announced is in addition to $560 million in initial orphaned well grant funding that was provided in August 2022, which has allowed states to plug and remediate more than 2,800 wells on state and private lands so far.