Biden-Harris Administration Announces $37 Million from the Investing in America Agenda to Clean Up Legacy Pollution in Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri

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US Department of the Interior News Release

Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $37 Million from the Investing in America Agenda to Clean Up Legacy Pollution in Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri 

Historic funding to plug orphaned oil and gas wells will address environmental and safety hazards, create good-paying jobs in communities across three states 

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today awarded $36.9 million in the first phase of formula grant funding through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri to clean up legacy pollution.  

Kentucky is receiving a $25 million award to plug and reclaim approximately 550 orphaned oil and gas wells. Mississippi will use its $6.8 million award to continue efforts identifying, characterizing and prioritizing previously undocumented orphaned wells and conduct plugging, remediation and restoration work on approximately 400 orphaned well sites. Missouri is receiving $5.1 million to plug and reclaim approximately 238 orphaned wells.  

As part of the awards, the three states will measure methane emissions from orphaned oil and gas wells, screen for groundwater and surface water impacts, and seek to prioritize cleaning up wells near overburdened and disadvantaged communities. 

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is creating jobs and revitalizing local economies while cleaning up harmful legacy pollution sites throughout the country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I’ve seen many of these hazardous sites firsthand that are actively leaking oil and releasing methane gas that need to be urgently addressed. With this historic funding, the states of Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri will continue the progress made plugging wells over the last year. These investments are good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers.” 

Orphaned oil and gas wells are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and community spaces across the country. Many of these wells pose serious health and safety threats by contaminating surface and groundwater, releasing toxic air pollutants, and leaking methane – a “super pollutant” that is a significant cause of climate change and many times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Plugging orphaned wells supports broader Biden-Harris administration efforts under the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.  

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department is delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history, including $4.7 billion to plug orphaned wells. In August 2022, the Department announced $560 million in initial grant funding to 24 states, including $25 million to Kentucky and $5 million to Mississippi for these states to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells. In January 2023, the Department awarded Missouri nearly $5 million to assess thousands of oil and gas wells and prioritize wells for plugging. Today’s announcement of $37 million in formula grant funding will help these three states continue the momentum started in 2022. 

Since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states across the nation have plugged more than 7,000 orphaned oil and gas wells and reduced approximately 11,530 metric tons of potential methane emissions. Kentucky plugged 635 wells with its initial grant, and Mississippi has used its funding to plug 14 wells, reclaim and remediate 26 orphaned infrastructure sites, and compile data pertaining to over 900 potentially orphaned wells in need of further investigation, analysis, and review.  

Across the country, investments through the Department’s new program are estimated to have supported over 7,200 jobs and contributed more than $900 million over the last two fiscal years. Today’s announcement is part of the next round of $660 million in funding and a part of the President’s broader effort to help states create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, reduce harmful methane leaks, and protect groundwater and surface water from the potential for contamination. 

This program also advances the President’s Justice40 Initiative that sets a goal to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that have been marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. 

In addition to initial grants and formula grants, states are also eligible for $1.5 billion in performance grants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Final state matching grant guidance, which is one of two categories of performance grants, will be issued in the near future. 

To supplement legacy pollution clean-up efforts led by states, nearly $150 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds has been awarded to federal land managers to plug, remediate and restore orphaned wells on public lands and waters. Additionally, approximately $40 million has been awarded to Tribal communities to address orphaned wells on Tribal lands. The window for Tribes to apply for up to $55 million in phase two orphaned well funding is currently open. 


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