Biden administration releases orphaned well guidance in bid to address rampant methane emissions

NEW HAVEN, IL - OCTOBER 04:  A rusting oil well sits at the edge of a corn field near the Asbury Methodist Chruch on October 4, 2008 near New Haven, Illinois. Crude oil production in Illinois has been steadily declining since its peak in the mid-1980s. The state is now one of the nation's top ethanol producing states.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


The possibility of environmental justice is something Interior Secretary Deb Haaland applauded in a press release announcing the draft guidance. “We are committed to getting these funds to states and communities as quickly as possible to confront legacy pollution and long-standing environmental injustices that have been allowed to fester for far too long,” Haaland said. “With so many communities looking forward to this program, we are eager to hear from diverse voices to review and provide feedback on this draft guidance.” Those thoughts were echoed by Sierra Club Deputy Legislative Director Mahyar Sorour, who urged states interested in addressing orphaned wells to “take seriously the need to implement best practices to limit methane pollution from orphaned wells, as well as pursuing bonding reform to make sure the industry can’t continue leaving taxpayers to cover the cost of cleaning up their messes.”

“The remarkable amount of interest from states in this program makes it clear that the scale of our orphan well problem is enormous,” Sorour said. “For the wellbeing of the communities with these wells, it’s critical that DOI has stepped in to support states. But now the states need to step up and hold the industry accountable.” A public comment period about the guidance is now open and those interested in voicing their thoughts about the program can email [email protected] until 11:59 PT on March 30. Two presentations will be held ahead of that comment period closing: One “focused on industry and labor equities in the guidance” next Wednesday, March 23 at 2 PM ET and another on “environmental justice equities” next Thursday, March 24 at 4 PM ET. I’ll be tuning in and certainly eager to hear what experts have to say about how to equitably plug wells as well as whether the government expects to also address surface reclamation in cases in which there are additional terrain concerns.



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