NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVDN) — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator Winnie Stachelberg traveled this week to highlight recent investments made by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to plug and remediate orphaned oil and gas wells in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and on other public lands.
Millions of Americans live within a mile of hundreds of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells, which lead to hazardous pollution, water contamination, and safety hazards for our communities.
The Department recently announced a $33 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in fiscal year 2022 to plug, remediate and reclaim hazardous sites on federal lands – part of a historic $4.7 billion allocated through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells across the country. The historic investments will create good-paying, union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce dangerous methane leaks.
On Sunday, Secretary Haaland and Stachelberg visited Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, to tour orphaned oil and gas wells and learn about the planned efforts to reclaim and remediate them. There are an estimated 869 wells on Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge, 705 of which are orphaned (and counting). The Refuge will receive $1.2 million in this first round of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to complete 24 projects.
On Monday, Stachelberg visited Big Thicket National Preserve in Houston, Texas to see several well sites that will be cleaned up by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Twenty wells located in Texas national parks were selected as part of the initial list of 277 high-priority wells to receive funding for cleanup in fiscal year 2022.
On Tuesday, Stachelberg was in Louisiana to see well sites that pose the most significant environmental and health hazards at the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve in Marrero. Louisiana will receive fiscal year 2022 funding to clean up 163 wells on federal lands. Stachelberg met with a team of U.S. Geological Survey and University of Louisiana Lafayette scientists who are studying greenhouse gas emissions in a deep water cypress swamp at the Barataria Preserve in the park. In New Orleans, she later hosted an environmental justice roundtable to learn about how the Department’s work can continue making a difference for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized, overburdened and underserved.