Secretary Haaland Announces Nearly $6 Million from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to Address Legacy Pollution by Plugging Orphaned Wells in Michigan

Last edited 03/26/2024

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2024

WAYNE, Mich. — During a legacy pollution roundtable discussion today with state, labor and business leaders in Wayne, Michigan, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a $5.87 million investment through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for Michigan to continue work plugging, reclaiming and restoring orphaned oil and gas wells across the state.

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 Interior Department awarded $560 million in initial grant funding to 24 states, including $25 million to Michigan, to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells nationwide. 

Since then, states have plugged over 7,000 wells, including more than 200 in Michigan, and reduced approximately 11,530 metric tons of potential methane emissions. Across the country, investments through the new program are estimated to have supported 7,213 jobs and contributed more than $900 million over the last two fiscal years. Today’s announcement is part of a second round of funding as well as the President’s broader effort to help states to create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce harmful methane leaks. 

“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, Michigan can 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.” 

As part of its award, Michigan will measure methane emissions from orphaned wells the state plugs, screen for groundwater and surface water impacts, and prioritize cleaning up wells near overburdened, low-income and Tribal communities. This award advances President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. 

Orphaned oil and gas wells are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and community spaces across the country. Many of these unplugged wells pose serious health and safety threats by contaminating 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.  

Last January, Secretary Haaland established the Orphaned Wells Program Office to ensure effective, accountable and efficient implementation of these historic investments. In addition to formula grants, states are also eligible for 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 federal public lands and waters. Additionally, approximately $40 million has been awarded to Tribal communities to address orphaned wells on Tribal lands, and the window for Tribes to apply for phase two orphaned well funding is currently open


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