Title: Department of the Interior Announces Funding to Remediate Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells in Tribal Communities
The Department of the Interior has recently announced the allocation of nearly $40 million in funding as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. This investment aims to support Tribal communities in plugging and remediating orphaned oil and gas wells across Indian Country. By addressing legacy pollution, reducing harmful methane leaks, and tackling environmental hazards, this initiative aims to uphold Tribal land rights, promote economic opportunities, and improve the well-being of Tribal communities.
Investing in America Agenda
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is a vital component of the Bidenomics strategy. It focuses on making record investments to ensure high-speed internet access, develop safer roads and bridges, modernize wastewater and sanitation systems, provide clean drinking water, ensure reliable and affordable electricity, and create well-paying jobs in every Tribal community.
The Announcement Details
The Department of the Interior, under the leadership of Secretary Deb Haaland, is committed to improving safety and health conditions for Indian Country. This commitment is reflected in the investment of $150 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to enhance Tribal Nations’ capacity for economic growth, revitalization, public safety, and methane leak reduction.
Assistant Secretary Newland emphasized the administration’s dedication to fulfill promises to Indian Country. Through cooperative efforts with Tribal leaders, their input will be integrated into decision-making processes to ensure their needs and priorities are considered. This collaborative approach aims to build sustainable infrastructure for present and future generations.
Phase 1 Funding Details
The initial phase of funding will provide over $34 million in Implementation Grants to Tribal Nations, specifically designed to support plugging, remediation, and reclamation activities for orphaned wells on Tribal lands. This includes activities such as pre-plugging assessments, soil remediation, and habitat restoration affected by orphaned wells and associated infrastructure.
Additionally, Program Development Grants, totaling more than $4.9 million, will aid Tribal recipients in capacity-building activities. These grants will empower Tribes to locate, inventory, and assess orphaned wells. They will also facilitate job creation, training, and administrative support to enhance tribal capacity and expertise.
The following Tribes and Nations have received funding in this phase:
1. Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation
2. The Chickasaw Nation
3. Chippewa Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation
4. Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana
5. Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma
6. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation
7. Navajo Nation
8. Osage Nation
9. Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians
10. Southern Ute Indian Tribe
The total funding for these grants amounts to approximately $39.4 million.
Benefits of Addressing Orphaned Wells
Orphaned oil and gas wells pose environmental hazards that endanger public health, safety, and wildlife. They contaminate groundwater, litter the landscape with rusted and dangerous equipment, and contribute significantly to climate change through methane leaks. Methane is over 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, making the plugging of these wells crucial for meeting climate goals outlined in the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.
This funding announcement complements previous investments made to address orphaned wells. In August 2022, $560 million in orphaned well grant funding was provided to states, while nearly $100 million is dedicated to addressing orphaned wells on public lands and waters.
The Department of the Interior’s commitment to supporting tribal communities by remediating orphaned oil and gas wells marks a significant step towards advancing environmental protection, public safety, and economic growth. By involving Tribal leaders in the decision-making process, the Administration is emphasizing the importance of Tribal sovereignty and their vital role in caring for their people. With the Biden-Harris administration’s focus on Investing in America, this initiative is expected to create a positive impact on Tribal communities and the environment as a whole.