Interior Announces $1.15B from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to Create Jobs Capping Wells Alongside Additional Federal Action


 When President Biden reestablished U.S. climate leadership on the world stage in Glasgow at the U.N. climate conference, he unveiled the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. The ambitious action plan outlined how the United States will leverage all available tools to tackle super-polluting methane emissions – a major contributor to climate change – while protecting public health, promoting U.S. innovation in new technologies, and helping employ thousands of skilled workers across the country.

Today, the Biden Administration is announcing new actions in line with the Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan to tackle methane emissions and support a clean energy economy, including:

  • The Department of the Interior announcing $1.15 billion for states to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells, a significant source of methane emissions.
  • The Department of Energy announcing the launch of a Methane Reduction Infrastructure Initiative to provide technical assistance to the orphaned well clean-up efforts of Federal agencies, states and tribes.
  • The Department of Transportation announcing new enforcement of the PIPES Act to requires pipeline operators to minimize methane leaks.
  • The Department of Agriculture highlighting ongoing research efforts and investments to reduce methane emissions from beef and dairy systems.
  • The White House announcing the formation of a new interagency working group to coordinate the measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
  • The President’s Interagency Work Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization announcing a national workshop for energy communities on repurposing fossil fuel infrastructure, including orphan oil and gas wells, for use in new industries.

These steps demonstrate how President Biden and the United States are taking bold action at home to follow through on international commitments. At the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in September 2021, the President and the EU announced the Global Methane Pledge: a global partnership to collectively cut emissions of methane by 30% compared with 2020 levels by 2030. President Biden has helped rally more than 110 countries to join the initiative, which now covers nearly half of all methane emissions and 70% of global GDP.

Together, today’s actions will:

Clean Up Orphaned Wells

As part of a new $4.7 billion orphan wells clean up program established under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department of the Interior today announced $1.15 billion is available for states to begin cleaning up thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells that are hazardous to the health and safety of communities across the country. Many of these orphaned wells are located in rural communities, environmental justice communities and communities of color that have suffered from years of divestment. Plugging these wells will not only reduce methane emissions and stop dangerous pollution, but it will create good-paying, union jobs and spur economic revitalization, especially in hard-hit energy communities. The funding announced today will be available to states to identify and plug orphaned wells, remediate and reclaim lands impacted by oil and gas development activities, and remove infrastructure associated with the wells. The 26 states eligible for this funding collectively represent nearly every state with documented orphan wells in the country.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes additional investments that support methane reduction, including:

  • $11.3 billion in new funding for abandoned mine land reclamation through the Department of the Interior;
  • $1 billion for natural gas pipeline modernization at the Department of Transportation;
  • $100 million for wastewater efficiency investments, including methane capture or transfers, at the Environmental Protection Agency; and
  • $30 million for the Department of Energy to assist in identifying, characterizing and mitigating the environmental risks of undocumented orphaned wells.

Launch a Methane Reduction Infrastructure Initiative

The Department of Energy announced that it has begun coordinating with the Department of the Interior and other relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the Methane Reduction Infrastructure Initiative (MRII), which is funded with $30 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The MRII will enable the federal government, states and Tribes to develop a better understanding of the various challenges and opportunities to accelerating the detection, characterization, and mitigation of methane emissions from undocumented wells throughout the United States. As a first step, the MRII will host a technical workshop to begin discussing research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) needs for the new Orphaned Wells Program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This workshop will bring together technology developers, industry partners, federal agencies, states, and others and focus on topics such as identification, characterization, methane measurement, and collaboration for the plugging of orphaned wells. The workshop will include discussions on advanced remediation and methane detection technologies, tools and methods, and best practices that can be used for the prioritization of well plugging and abandonment activities.

Minimize Pipeline Methane Leaks

The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it has begun enforcement of Section 114 of PIPES Act which will help ensure pipeline operators immediately begin to minimize their methane emissions and will help inform the development of a new rulemaking that will require pipeline operators to minimize their methane emissions across their pipeline systems. DOT will be convening a public webinar later this month to provide more information on the new enforcement activity in this space and make clear the agency’s expectations for immediate action to minimize methane emissions by the pipeline sector.

Reduce Methane Emissions from Beef and Dairy Systems

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is developing science-based models and tools that are helping industry partners assess and track progress toward net zero emissions from the U.S. dairy sector. ARS researchers have collaborated with university and industry partners to conduct a full life cycle assessment of U.S. beef and dairy systems in order to further improve dairy’s environmental footprint and reduce ammonia and methane emissions from manure storage sources with a goal of reducing overall methane emissions. In addition to the cutting-edge research being pursued by USDA scientists, the Department’s Rural Development mission area has supported over $200 million in methane reducing anaerobic digester projects over the past year

Advance Greenhouse Gas Monitoring and Measurement

The White House is announcing the formation of a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Monitoring & Measurement Interagency Working Group to help identify and deploy the best available tools and data systems to measure, monitor, report, and verify (MMRV) carbon dioxide, methane, and other GHG emissions and removals. The new GHG measurement interagency working group will work with scientists, technologists, and mappers to develop a comprehensive national GHG MMRV system that will facilitate the dissemination and availability of validated, science-based GHG data for use by federal agencies, local, state, and Tribal governments, the private sector, and the public. In the near term, the GHG Measurement & Monitoring Interagency Working Group will focus on presidential climate priorities including carbon dioxide and methane emissions and removals under the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan and the USDA’s Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry initiatives. The Working Group is co-led led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Climate Policy Office.

Spur New Industries in Energy Communities

The President’s Interagency Work Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which focuses on economic diversification and community-driven solutions in historic coal, oil, and gas regions across the United States, announced that it will hold a national workshop on the potential to reduce methane emissions from legacy fossil fuel infrastructure, including orphan oil and gas wells, while supporting new emerging industries including clean energy and manufacturing. Leveraging and transforming legacy fossil fuel infrastructure opens up the opportunity for a skilled workforce to access new sources of long-term high-quality jobs and for states and communities to increase tax revenues. As an example, the Department of Energy recently awarded $8.4 million in grant funding to establish new geothermal energy and heat production from orphaned oil and gas wells. This workshop will be hosted by the Interagency Working Group and will include technical expertise from across the Administration on site remediation and reclamation, worker training and upskilling of dislocated workers, and the broad range of options for repurposing fossil fuel infrastructure.

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