Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland traveled to Houston to highlight investments made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to put people to work plugging, reclaiming, and remediating orphaned oil and gas wells.
She did this to bring attention to the fact that these investments are being made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The historic assets being made to clean up these hazardous sites will create employment that pays well and is protected by unions, drive economic growth and revival, and minimize the release of dangerous methane.
The visit is a part of the Investing in America tour conducted by the Biden-Harris administration. As part of this tour, President Biden and members of his Cabinet are making their way across the country to hear directly from communities about the opportunities created due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.
To discuss the progress in implementing the Law, Secretary Haaland convened a roundtable with representatives from all levels of government, labor leaders, and campaigners for environmental justice.
She also received a briefing from the Railroad Commission of Texas on their work after visiting two sites in the Houston region where the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is paying for the plugging of orphaned wells. These sites are located in the Houston area. Congresswomen Sylvia Garcia, Lizzie Fletcher, and Sheila Jackson Lee were also there to support her.
Around the United States, backyards, recreational areas, and other community spaces are being contaminated by abandoned oil and gas wells. Because methane is more than 25 times as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, it is a massive contributor to climate change. It poses a considerable threat to public safety. This makes it one of the most significant causes of climate change.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is delivering the most significant investment in tackling legacy pollution in the history of the United States, including an expenditure of $4.7 billion to plug orphaned wells. This is the most significant investment in the United States to date.
Concerning orphaned oil and gas wells on state and private land, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act has allotted $25 million in first grant funding to Texas to address the issue. By a draft of the advice made available in January, the state of Texas can apply for a formula award of up to $82.5 million later this year. The deadline for submitting comments on the proposed guidance was March 24, and the Department is now analyzing the feedback it has received.
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In addition, the United States Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are working to remediate 20 additional high-priority well sites in the state’s Angelina National Forest, Big Thicket National Preserve, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Sabine National Forest thanks to an investment of $33 million to address orphaned wells on federal lands.
Plugging orphaned wells will help advance the goals of the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which focuses on spurring economic revitalization in hard-hit energy communities.