Biden-Harris Administration Announces $30 Million from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to Clean Up Legacy Pollution in Arkansas and Louisiana

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

Last edited 06/05/2024

Date: Thursday, May 30, 2024

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced $30.59 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for Arkansas and Louisiana to clean up legacy pollution. Arkansas is receiving a $5.59 million award, which will be used to plug and reclaim approximately 274 orphaned oil and gas well sites. Louisiana will use its $25 million award to plug and reclaim approximately 540 orphaned oil and gas wells. These investments to address hazardous sites will help create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, help protect public health and the environment from harmful methane leaks, and advance environmental justice.

Today’s awards are part of $660 million in formula grant funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law being released on a rolling basis. As part of these awards, the two states 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. These efforts advance 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.

“Toxic orphaned oil and gas wells have plagued American communities for generations. President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is empowering states and Tribes across the country to address this long-standing environmental injustice by making a historic investment to plug these wells, which will create jobs and revitalize local economies,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “With this historic funding, Arkansas and Louisiana will continue the progress already made plugging wells and begin to turn the tide on these environmental hazards that are harming our lands, waters and air.” 

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 to the air we breathe and water we drink 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 President’s 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. Since August 2022, the Department has awarded $565 million in initial grant funding to 25 states, including $5 million to Arkansas and $25 million to Louisiana for these states to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells. As demonstrated by the Department's recently released StoryMap, 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 carbon dioxide equivalent 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.

With initial grant funding, to date, Arkansas has plugged 57 wells and Louisiana has plugged more than 540 wells. These states have also remediated the surface and restored orphaned well sites with this funding. Today’s announcement of over $30 million in formula grant funding will help these states continue the momentum started in 2022. 

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. Final state matching grant guidance, one of two categories of performance grants, was recently released, and states can now apply to access these additional funds. 


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