picture of oil and gas well with infrastructure
Orphaned Well Site. Channel Islands National Park, CA.

Legacy Pollution Remediation and Reclamation

 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117-58), directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish programs to address abandoned mine lands and inventory and properly close orphaned wells. These programs will address legacy pollution and employment challenges in energy communities nationwide on Federal, Tribal, State, and private lands.

Orphaned Wells

With an appropriation of $4.677B, the BIL will reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from orphaned wells as part of a much larger strategy to combat climate change. These funds also will clean up surface water and groundwater contamination, restore native habitat, create good-paying union jobs, and benefit disproportionately impacted communities. 

A key component within the Orphaned Well Site Plugging, Remediation, and Restoration section of the BIL is methane reduction.  The BIL contains provisions to measure or estimate and track methane associated with orphaned wells.  Methane may leak from orphaned wells in various ways (see a schematic here).  The DOI methane measurement guidelines for orphaned wells is available here.

For consistency across Federal, State, and Tribal orphaned well programs and to facilitate the Secretary's annual report to Congress, the DOI has developed a standard data reporting template, available here:  Data Reporting Template.

State and Tribal Grants Orphaned Well Program.  The BIL funding for wells on Tribal, State, and private lands will be distributed through a grant program managed by the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance. 

  • State Orphaned Well Grants.  The BIL specifies three types of grants for the State Program:
  1. Initial Grants (up to 25M per state)
  2. Formula Grants ($2B total) [INFORMATION FORTHCOMING]
  3. Performance Grants ($1.5B total) [INFORMATION FORTHCOMING]
  • Tribal Orphaned Well Grants.  The BIL provides $150M for Tribal well plugging, remediation, and restoration. Tribes may seek funding to undertake the well plugging or may request that the Secretary administer the well plugging on behalf of the Tribe. The Indian Energy Service Center, Bureau of Indian Affairs, is working closely with OEPC to develop and administer the Tribal Grant Program. [INFORMATION FORTHCOMING]

Federal Orphaned Well Program.  The Federal Orphaned Well Program is led by the Bureau of Land Management, with support from the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance. The BIL provides $250M to Federal Land Managers at the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to inventory, assess, plug, and restore orphaned well sites.  Eligible bureaus are the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the US forest Service.  See the Federal Well Program tile below for more information.

Abandoned Mine Lands (AML).  

Coal Mines.  Sections 40701 through 40703 of the BIL addresses abandoned mine land reclamation related to coal mining and are managed by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Non-Coal (including Hardrock) Mines. Section 40704 of the BIL requires the Secretary of the Interior to establish a program “to inventory, assess, decommission, reclaim, respond to hazardous substances release on, and remediate abandoned hardrock mine land based on conditions including need, public health and safety, potential environmental harm, and other land use priorities” on Federal, State, and Tribal lands.  While funds for the non-coal AML Program were not appropriated in the BIL, Congress did include initial program funding in FY22 DOI appropriations.  [INFORMATION FORTHCOMING]

News:

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $33 Million Infrastructure Investment to Address Legacy Pollution, Spur Good-Paying Jobs on Public Lands

Biden-Harris Administration Releases Final Guidance on New Orphaned Well Program

Biden-Harris Administration Releases Draft Guidance, Invites Public Comment on New Orphaned Well Program

Biden Administration Announces $1.15 Billion for States to Create Jobs Cleaning Up Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

Resources:

Federal Orphaned Well Program Bureau of Land Management 

Indian Energy Service Center Indian Affairs

Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission

Definitions

Contact us:

Orphaned Wells:     orphanedwells@ios.doi.gov

Abandoned Hardrock Mines:     ecrp@ios.doi.gov