Luján, Cramer Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Develop New Technology to Identify and Plug Orphaned Wells 

Legislation Builds On Successful Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Initiative

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) introduced the Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act (AWRRDA) to identify and remediate abandoned gas and oil wells, which can leak methane, contaminate groundwater, and create community safety risks. Last year, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included Senators Luján and Cramer’s REGROW Act, to put skilled energy workers back to work to plug abandoned wells – however methods for identifying and remediating abandoned wells are not well developed.

The AWRRDA will authorize funding to enhance the abandoned well remediation programs currently authorized in the IIJA by ensuring that funds are dedicated to thoroughly-researched efforts that maximize benefits for affected communities and the energy sector. Specifically, the AWRRDA will support the Department of Energy’s efforts to develop:

  • Technology to detect and catalog abandoned wells more rapidly and efficiently, such as remote sensors and optical gas imaging;
  • Methods to more accurately quantify methane emissions and how they are affected by well age, geology and other factors;
  • Processes to plug and remediate abandoned wells more efficiently, economically, and sustainably; 
  • Innovative alternative uses for abandoned wells, including geothermal power production or carbon dioxide storage, which will create entirely new economic sectors that leverage abandoned and hazardous infrastructure; 
  • An improved understanding of abandoned well impacts on groundwater quality.

Last year, the Biden administration announced that Senators Luján and Cramer’s proposed legislation to plug abandoned wells forms a major pillar of the Administration’s strategy to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.

“In New Mexico and across the country, abandoned wells pose serious environmental harm and public health risks that threaten the health of our communities. That’s why our REGROW Act works to cut methane emissions and lessen public health risks, but more research and development is needed to help identify the thousands of abandoned wells nationwide,” said Senator Luján. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to build upon our work in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to further develop technology to identify and plug abandoned wells to prevent public health risks, create jobs, and boost economic growth.”

“North Dakota has led by example remediating abandoned wells and further progress has been made with the passage of the REGROW Act. Our bill keeps this momentum going by investing in new and innovative ways to track the problem and ultimately mitigate the damage so land is returned to productive use, emissions are reduced, and safety issues are addressed,” said Senator Cramer.

“This commonsense legislation will create good jobs in the oil and gas sector and improve our environment, and the Senate should work to pass it as soon as possible,” said Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17).  “Now is the time to take action to address this environmental risk and strengthen the energy industry through cutting-edge science and innovation.” 

“The AWRRDA is a targeted and timely bill that builds on progress made through IIJA to tackle America’s abandoned well problem. This new legislation would enable us to find more of these old wells, reuse those we can for beneficial purposes, and close the rest less expensively – all while boosting the economy and creating jobs.” said Adam Peltz, Director and Senior Attorney, Environmental Defense Fund. 

 “Abandoned and orphaned wells are scattered across the country, with many of them unsealed and unaccounted for. The AWRRDA offers an innovative approach for locating these wells, better understanding the risks they pose to communities nearby, and, in some cases, even putting them to new, climate-safe uses. Even better, the research this bill supports could make funding already provided by Congress go even further toward cleaning up these wells,” said Josh Axelrod, Senior Policy Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Latine communities across the country, but especially in oil producing states such as California and New Mexico, have struggled with abandoned wells for decades. These old, leaky wells not only emit dangerous toxins that put the health of our families at risk but lower property values and land productivity. This important legislation will support critical efforts to improve well-plugging and land remediation, document more orphan wells, and allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the risks they pose to our communities. Now is the time to invest in front-line communities that face disproportionate pollution burdens on a daily basis,” said Irene Burga, Climate Justice and Clean Air Program Director, Green Latinos.

“Inactive, unplugged wells that have not been properly plugged or reclaimed are a major problem throughout New Mexico, on both public and private lands. It is our hope that this funding to DOE will help BLM and state officials identify inactive wells that need to be cleaned-up immediately. We thank Senators Luján and Cramer for their leadership and this much-needed attention and funding,” said Mark Alison, Executive Director, New Mexico Wild.

“We applaud the bipartisan introduction of the Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act (AWRRDA).  This bill will build off the provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and increase DOE research to reduce leaks from orphaned wells that can contaminate groundwater and release methane. Remediating orphaned wells can reduce harmful emissions and contamination, protect human health, and generate new jobs,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director, Bipartisan Policy Center Action.

“We thank Senators Luján and Cramer for their continued leadership in addressing orphaned and abandoned wells. The AWRRDA provides critical funding to more accurately measure methane emissions as well as improving plugging and remediation of abandoned wells. We urge Senate leadership to include this important legislation in any end of year package,” said Amber Reimondo, Energy Director, Grand Canyon Trust.

Full text of the bill is available here. Additional endorser quotes can be found here.



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