Kentucky to Begin Work Plugging More Than 1,000 Orphaned Wells Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law 

Funds will be used to measure methane emissions and contamination in ground water 

Last edited 02/07/2024

Date: Thursday, August 25, 2022


WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced that Kentucky has been awarded an initial grant of $25 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to begin work to plug, cap and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells across the state.   

The state of Kentucky has indicated that it will utilize this funding to plug between 1,000 and 1,200 documented orphaned wells, including removing and disposing of surface infrastructure such as abandoned storage tanks and pipelines, and properly managing contaminated soil, followed by restoration of disturbed areas. Funds will also be used to develop a process to model, measure and report methane as well as purchase vehicles, computers, and monitoring equipment to increase the capacity of the state to inventory wells and oversee site work by contractors, with up to 8 new staff members to be hired to help administer the program.

Millions of Americans across the country live within a mile of an orphaned oil and gas well, which are polluting backyards, recreation areas and community spaces across the country. Methane leaking from many of these unplugged wells is a serious safety hazard and is a significant cause of climate change, being more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. The historic investments to clean up these hazardous sites will create good-paying, union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce dangerous methane leaks.  

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is enabling us to confront long-standing environmental injustices by making a historic investment to plug orphaned wells throughout the country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “At the Department of the Interior, we are working on multiple fronts to clean up these sites as quick as we can by investing in efforts on federal lands and partnering with states and Tribes to leave no community behind. Today’s announcement is exciting progress toward what we will accomplish together through this historic Law.” 

Plugging orphaned wells will help advance the goals of the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, as well as the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which focuses on spurring economic revitalization in hard-hit energy communities. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history, including through a $4.7 billion investment to plug orphaned wells. These legacy pollution sites are environmental hazards and jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, emitting noxious gases and methane, littering the landscape with rusted and dangerous equipment, and harming wildlife.    

Today’s investment is part of an overall $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2022 funding announced in January by the Department for states to plug and remediate orphaned wells. States will receive additional formula funding dollars in the coming months. In addition, an initial $33 million was recently allocated to plug 277 wells on federal public lands. The Tribal orphan well grant program is being informed by ongoing Tribal consultations and listening sessions.  


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