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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Interior allocates another $64 million to plug abandoned oil and gas wells

 an active well on public lands in northeastern Utah show near a sign that says Bureau of Land Management  "Your Public Lands Managed by Vernal Field Office." The surrounding area has snow on teh ground and three wells are seen on the land.
WildEarth Guardians
Federal funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are being used to plug more than 300 abandoned oil and gas wells drilled on public lands. Pictured is an example of an active well on public lands in northeastern Utah.

The money, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will be used to plug more than 300 abandoned wells that were drilled on federal public lands, such as national wildlife refuges, national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands.

In the Mountain West, that includes plugging a dozen wells in Wyoming, one in Colorado, one in Montana, and one in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Federal funds are also being used for pre- and post-plugging work at well sites on lands managed by the National Park Service in a handful of states, including New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah.

Winnie Stachelberg, Interior’s senior advisor and infrastructure coordinator, said this cleanup work is a critical part of the Biden administration’s $16 billion investment to address legacy pollution sites across the country.

“There are tens of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells that litter the country in our national parks, in our wildlife refuges, in our outdoors, and they are leaking methane,” Stachelberg said. “They are a threat to our climate, to the air we breathe, and to the water.”

Abandoned wells can also leak benzene, a toxic gas that can cause cancer, according to a recent study from PSE Health Energy.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.
Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see more, visit KUNR Public Radio.

Kaleb Roedel