OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – The U.S. Department of the Interior awarded Oklahoma an initial $25 million grant to begin plugging, capping and reclaiming orphaned oil and gas wells across the state.

The funds, awarded from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law , will be used to plug 1,196 documented orphaned wells.

Wells that are the greatest threat to health and human safety, the environment and personal property will be given priority, according to Dept. of the Interior officials.

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is enabling us to confront long-standing environmental injustices by making a historic investment to plug orphaned wells throughout the country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “At the Department of the Interior, we are working on multiple fronts to clean up these sites as quick as we can by investing in efforts on federal lands and partnering with states and Tribes to leave no community behind. Today’s announcement is exciting progress toward what we will accomplish together through this historic Law.” 

State oil and gas regulators plan to collaborate with other state agencies to locate tracts in overburdened communities that need remediation. Regulators will also work with federally-recognized Tribes to plug wells within their historic boundaries.

Millions across the nation live within a mile of an unplugged oil and gas well, which pollutes backyards, recreation areas and community spaces. 

Methane leaking from these wells is both a serious safety hazard and significant cause of climate change, since they are 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, Interior officials said.

“These legacy pollution sites are environmental hazards and jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, emitting noxious gases and methane, littering the landscape with rusted and dangerous equipment, and harming wildlife,” Interior officials said.

The investment to clean up the hazardous sites will create good-paying, union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization and reduce dangerous methane leaks, officials said.  

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest investment in combating legacy pollution in U.S. history, and includes a $4.7 billion investment to plug orphaned wells. The $25 million grant to Oklahoma is part of an overall $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2022 funding announced in January.

States will receive additional funds in the coming months. An initial $33 million was recently allocated to plug 277 wells on federal public lands.

Tribal consultations and listening sessions have informed the tribal orphan well grant program.