Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Plug Every Documented Orphaned Well Across America
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) introduced the Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act of 2021 to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells, which can leak methane, contaminate groundwater, and create community safety risks. The REGROW Act would help put skilled energy workers back to work with the goal of plugging every documented orphaned well in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit oil and gas workers particularly hard, and the industry has lost more than 100,000 jobs since the beginning of the public health and economic crisis. The REGROW Act would create or retain tens of thousands of jobs, help stimulate oilfield community economies, and cut down on harmful emissions.
The REGROW Act would provide:
- $4.275 billion for orphaned well cleanup on state and private lands;
- $400 million for orphaned well cleanup on public and Tribal lands;
- $32 million for related research, development, and implementation.
Most documented orphaned wells are located on state and private land, and the REGROW Act includes crucial funds to be dispersed to the states through Department of the Interior (DOI) grants. Additionally, the bipartisan bill directs $250 million to DOI to clean up orphaned wells on public lands and creates a $150 million grant program within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to help Tribes clean up orphaned wells.
“New Mexico is leading the nation on climate action, and I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to build on our state’s momentum, help slash methane emissions, and create new opportunities. The REGROW Act will put New Mexicans back to work while safeguarding our environment and reducing harmful air pollution. This bipartisan legislation aims to clean up the tens of thousands of orphaned wells across the nation, including more than 700 in New Mexico,” said Luján. “This is a bipartisan priority, and I’m grateful to have Senator Cramer leading this effort with me.”
“While thousands of the nation’s oilfield workers are out of a job, our country has over fifty thousand abandoned oil and gas wells with no one responsible for their cleanup,” said Cramer. “As a top energy and agricultural producer, North Dakota excels at prioritizing the reclamation of these orphaned wells, which keeps people employed, reduces environmental hazards and public health risks, and makes previously unusable land productive again. The REGROW Act would follow our state’s lead by providing states, tribes, and federal agencies the resources they need to properly plug orphaned wells. It’s a win for workers, landowners, and the environment.”
The REGROW Act is endorsed by leading energy and environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
“EDF applauds Senators Luján and Cramer for introducing a bipartisan bill that will create jobs and protect local communities from air, water and climate pollution from leaky orphan wells. Over 100,000 oil and gas workers have lost their jobs in the past year and this effort will put people back to work while creating a healthier environment. This bill will ensure every documented orphan well in the U.S. is plugged, help identify and catalogue the hundreds of thousands of other improperly abandoned wells across the country and make sure when wells are plugged, they are plugged properly. This is an important piece of the overarching reforms – including reforms to bonding and other policies that prevent wells from becoming orphaned in the future – needed to reduce the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry,” said Elizabeth Gore, EDF Senior Vice President of Political Affairs.
“IPAA supports actions to address orphan wells. States have been acting to plug these wells for decades. The REGROW Act would provide additional funds for these state programs and aid their initiatives and the workers who undertake these efforts during the difficult fiscal times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. IPAA urges Congress to take swift action on this legislation. We applaud the leadership of Senators Luján and Cramer in working with all interested parties to develop legislation that will help address this important issue in a reasonable and thoughtful manner,” said Barry Russell, IPAA President & CEO.
“IOGCC urges Congress to pass the REGROW Act now. This legislation will provide funding to accelerate the orphan well plugging activities of the states. It will simultaneously sustain the oil and gas workforce through the repercussions of the pandemic and address the potential environmental harms of orphan wells. IOGCC has been gratified to work with other stakeholders under the leadership of Senators Luján and Cramer in crafting bipartisan legislation that addresses an issue of paramount importance to the states,” said IOGCC Executive Director Lori Wrotenbery.
“There are tens of thousands of known orphaned oil and gas wells in the country that energy companies never properly plugged. The toxins emitted from these wells threaten our wildlife, water, air, lands, and the outdoor recreation economy. This long-overdue legislation will provide the money to clean up these sites on federal, state, private, and Tribal lands while also employing thousands of workers in rural areas. In addition to passing this common-sense legislation, Congress needs to tackle the root cause of the problem and fix the bonding system so that taxpayers aren’t left on the hook for future cleanups,” said David Willms, NWF Senior Director for Western Wildlife and Conservation.
The legislation also has the support of the Clean Air Council, Evangelical Environmental Network, Grand Canyon Trust, Moms Clean Air Force, New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources, New Mexico Wild, North Dakota Petroleum Council, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Additional quotes from supporters are available HERE.