The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will put more than $13 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding to work to plug 175 orphaned oil and gas wells on six national wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Oklahoma, helping communities eliminate environmental and public safety hazards caused by past oil and gas activities while protecting important wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Wells are considered “orphaned” if there is no viable operator of record and therefore no longer a viable party responsible for their upkeep and maintenance. The $13 million in funding is being provided to the Service by the Department of the Interior, which today announced a broader orphaned well effort on Interior public lands, funded by the BIL.
“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers the largest investment in tackling the removal of abandoned oil and gas equipment from lands in American history,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “These sites are environmental hazards that jeopardize public health and safety by potentially contaminating groundwater or emitting greenhouse gases like methane. They litter the landscape with dilapidated and dangerous equipment and harm wildlife and their habitats.”
The wells identified in this first round of funding occur in three general areas: southern Louisiana, northern Louisiana, and east-central Oklahoma. Wells in southern Louisiana occur on two national wildlife refuges: Lacassine and Atchafalaya. In northern Louisiana, orphaned wells lie in close proximity across three refuges: Black Bayou Lake, D’Arbonne, and Upper Ouachita. Wells in Oklahoma are found on Deep Fork.
In addition to plugging each well, the Service will work closely with the states on reclamation to ensure sites are restored for the benefit of wildlife and their habitats.
This effort provides benefits beyond the well site: It creates good-paying jobs that strengthen local economies, invests in disadvantaged communities consistent with the President’s Justice 40 initiative, and forges a strong working relationship between the Service and the states of Louisiana and Oklahoma.
For more information about oil and gas development on national wildlife refuges, please see https://www.fws.gov/program/oil-gas-and-mineral-management/what-we-do