Acting Deputy Secretary Daniel-Davis Announces $25 Million from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to Clean Up Legacy Pollution in New Mexico

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

Last edited 05/16/2024

Date: Thursday, May 16, 2024

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Today, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Infrastructure Week, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior Laura Daniel-Davis visited New Mexico, where she announced $25 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for the state to clean up legacy pollution. New Mexico expects to plug approximately 117 orphaned oil and gas wells, remediate four sites and complete surface restoration of 33 locations with the grant funding. These investments to address hazardous sites will help create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce environmental and public health impacts from harmful methane leaks.

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.   

During the visit, Acting Deputy Secretary Daniel-Davis met with representatives from New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to hear about their work to clean up legacy pollution across the state. With initial grant funding, to date, New Mexico has plugged 137 wells and conducted extensive surface remediation and restoration of orphaned well sites. Today’s announcement builds on those efforts.   

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is empowering communities across the country to confront long-standing environmental injustices by making a historic investment to plug orphaned oil and gas wells,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis. “These investments are good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers. With this additional funding, New Mexico – and states all across the country – will put more people to work to clean up these toxic sites, reduce methane emissions and safeguard our environment.”

Today’s award is part of an overall $660 million in formula grant funding being released on a rolling basis. As part of the award, New Mexico will detect and 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. This award advances the President’s ambitious environmental justice goals through the Justice40 Initiative, which 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. 

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. This includes grants to states in three categories: initial grants, formula grants, and performance grants. In August 2022, the Department announced $560 million in initial grant funding to 24 states. As demonstrated in a StoryMap recently released by the Department, plugging is underway across the country, and since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states have plugged more than 7,700 orphaned wells and reduced approximately 11,530 metric tons of potential methane emissions. Nationwide, 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. 

In addition to the $775 million available through initial grants and $2 billion available through multiple phases of formula grants, states are also eligible for $1.5 billion in performance grants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These efforts are an important step in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to ensure that all communities have access to and opportunities to help create a healthy, prosperous, resilient and sustainable future. 


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