President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan infrastructure package Monday that includes funding for expanded broadband, plugging of orphaned oil and gas wells, and remediating abandoned mines.
The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has been touted as the largest infrastructure investment since the New Deal. During the signing ceremony, Biden said “we’re taking a monumental step forward to building back better” and praised the bipartisan effort to get the package passed. He further described the law as a “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”
The oil and gas industry will be impacted by the “Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act of 2021”.
The REGROW Act provides grant funding for participating states to identify, prioritize, and remediate wells and associated infrastructure on Federal or Tribal lands. Rankings for determining priority are based on “public health and safety, potential environmental harm, and other land use priorities.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was one of the governors who advocated for the bill. She said the law provides funding for much needed improvements while also creating jobs in communities across the country.
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), championed much of the legislation included in the final bill. This includes the REGROW Act. Luján said REGROW is an important step, but more work is needed to ensure that operating oil and gas wells are not eventually abandoned.
Grant funding amounts from REGROW will be determined according to a formula, based on “the State program for orphaned well plugging, remediation, and restoration, … job losses in the oil and gas industry in the State during the period beginning March 1, 2020, the number of documented orphaned wells located in the State, the projected cost to plug or reclaim those orphaned wells, to reclaim adjacent land, and to decommission or remove associated pipelines, facilities, and infrastructure.”
Funding can also be used to measure and track methane emissions, environmental damage from orphaned wells, and any potential human health effects – critical components of ESG compliance.
Initially, states have one year from receipt of funding to commit the grant funds to carrying out these projects. This is a window of opportunity for state governments and the oil and gas industry to jumpstart orphaned well identification and remediation.
Priorities are clear: sealing leakage pathways to prevent gas migration, eliminating methane emissions, and protecting human health and our environment. Investing in permanent plug and abandon solutions such as BioSqueeze® to fully seal wells and prevent future environmental damage is the best option for rapid, dependable remediation of orphaned wells.
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