The Department of the Interior has allocated $80 million to help the state of Texas reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells statewide. The goal is to prevent environmental damage, protect public health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with these abandoned wells.
The grant will help the state plug and cap orphaned wells, measure their methane emissions, screen groundwater and surface water and prioritize cleaning up wells in underserved areas, the DOI said.
The money comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which will make $2 billion in formula grants available over the coming years to combat legacy pollution.
The DOI last year made $660 million available to 26 states, including Texas, to clean up legacy pollution. Texas’ $80 million is the first award to come from that round of funding. It is also the first in an expected series of annual formula grants that will total almost $320 million for the state to plug and reclaim orphaned wells.
“I’ve seen many of these toxic sites firsthand, including abandoned wells outside Houston that were actively leaking oil and needed to be urgently addressed. With this historic funding, Texas can continue the progress it has made plugging wells over the last year,” DOI secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.
Orphaned wells are hazardous sites that can no longer be maintained or properly closed. They can leak oil or gas, poisoning the surrounding environment, or release methane, one of the greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change. Abandoned wells also run the risk of catching fire or exploding, posing a threat to nearby communities.
This funding round is in addition to $560 million in grants to reclaim orphaned wells announced in August 2022. Since then, states have plugged nearly 6,000 wells, including 730 in Texas.
Photo by Steve Hillebrand via Wikimedia Commons